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Pakistanis still languishing in Guantanamo Bay without trial

The News (Pakistan)
by Jan Khaskheli
June 2, 2008

Karachi. “At least eight Pakistani citizens have been languishing in the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp for the last over six years. They have never been charged with any crime and neither have they been tried in any court of law nor could they meet their parents, relatives and friends.”

Zachary Katznelson, a US counsel of a Pakistani citizen, Saifullah Paracha, said this while talking to The News on Sunday. He said that his client has suffered two heart attacks in the prison (detention camp). Paracha, 60, has been detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for the last five years.

“I, being his counsel, have seen Paracha in the prison, lying in the ground with shackles. There are video cameras installed in the prison and nobody can talk to them freely,” Katznelson said.

“Only the US lawyers have this opportunity to meet these prisoners there and nobody, including lawyers from another country can meet with the detainees. All happenings within the prison premises are being kept secret by the US authorities there. I have met with my client eight times but I am restricted that I can not disclose it to the outside people or the media,” he said.

Katznelson is a Legal Director of Reprieve, established in the United Kingdom in 1999. Initially, its focus was fighting against the death penalty but after the war on terror unleashed by the US, it has been fighting for justice and saving lives of victims. The organisation provides legal support to prisoners free of charge.

“The US authorities have investigated me, they interrogated my friends and relatives for several months to establish my patriotic credentials before allowing me to defend the prisoners,” he said.

Neither these prisoners have the opportunity to meet their parents nor has trial been started yet to prove any evidence, if any, against them. “If you have any evidence that should be shown and these people be tried in the courts. If you are reluctant to show any proof against these people, being imprisoned, you do not have right to deal with them like this,” Katznelson said.

“Every country should be against terrorism but like the US, Pakistan has gone too far in the war on terror,” he says.

“You have to be smart in the fight against terrorism. You have to take efforts for justice and human rights, which make the world safer.”

He said that every country condemns terrorism but Pakistan being an important ally of the US what is doing today is dangerous for its own citizens. The Pakistani authorities are taking people, keeping them in interrogation cells. The international human rights bodies and we believe that these missing people are in the custody. Some of them might have been in the US-run jails, including Guantanamo Bay.

Katznelson said that Pakistan instead of doing something to get its citizens released handed at least two citizens to the US authorities and receiving millions of dollars for the job.

Apart from Saifullah Paracha, seven other Pakistani citizens are detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, who include Majid Khan, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Amar A Baloch, Mohammed Madani, and two real brothers Abdul Rehman and Mohammed Rabbani. He said 70 other Pakistani citizens have been freed from the same prison at different occasions.

He said Pakistan’s interior ministry officials told him that they have seen files against Paracha but there was no evidence to prosecute him.

He disclosed that the US Supreme Court would likely to decide in June the legal position whether the US government can run the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba or not. Earlier, the US superior judiciary had taken notice of the detainees issue but the Bush government justified that it (Guantanamo Bay) was not in the US and located outside country. He said the Bush administration claimed a law passed by Congress soon after 9/11 incidents allowed them to do whatever it deems fit for fighting against the terrorism. “And under the same law, the regime is justifying captivity of the people at the bay but only five among total 778 prisoners were directly or indirectly related to the 9/11 events.”

He also slammed the role of the US media, which he said was reluctant to ask questions from the Bush government over its policy on the war on terror and its aggressive actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, he lauded the role of people, writers, intellectuals and artists, who raise voice against the Bush government.

Saifullah Paracha, 60, is a Pakistani philanthropist and businessman incarcerated in Guant·namo Bay cell since September 2004. He was born in 1947 in Mangowal in Punjab.

Paracha urgently needs heart treatment which is not being provided by his American captors. Paracha’s legal case has been pending in the US courts for more than three years without any resolution. At each and every turn, the US government has sought further delay. It seems that political intervention is the only hope for Paracha to receive justice. Until that day, Paracha, who has been an asset to both the Pakistani and American communities, will continue to languish, and may possibly perish, in his cell.

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