Local Time

Thursday, April 20, 2006

US reveals names of Guantánamo detainees

Staff and agencies
Thursday April 20, 2006


The US government has released its first official list of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.
The list of 558 people comprises three-quarters of the total number of detainees who have passed through the camp, which was set up in 2002 after the end of the war in Afghanistan.

Secrecy surrounding the camp, and persistent reports of human rights violations, have attracted notoriety for the prison, in the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The people named on the detainee list come from 41 countries, although nearly two-thirds are from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Former officials of Afghanistan's Taliban regime are particularly prominent on the tally. The Taliban's former defence ministry chief of staff Mullah Mohammed Fazil is still in custody along with intelligence officials Abdul Haq Wasiq and Gholam Ruhani.

Kabul's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, is also included, although he was released from the prison camp late last year.

Also included on the list is David Hicks, an Australian for whom lawyers are currently fighting to establish British citizenship via his mother, who was born in south London.

The court of appeal last week rejected a home office claim that he was not entitled to register his citizenship on account of his previous alleged membership of al-Qaida.

The Guardian today reported that foreign secretary Jack Straw had written to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice demanding the release from Guantánamo Bay of UK resident Bisher al-Rawi.

Mr Rawi, an Iraqi citizen, took the British government to court last month claiming he had been hired by MI5 to track an alleged Muslim extremist and was only arrested after British intelligence passed false information to the US.

Another detainee named on the list is Muhammed al-Qahtani, accused of being the 20th hijacker in the September 11 attacks. The Saudi citizen was stopped as he tried to enter the US in Orlando, Florida, shortly before the attacks.

Details of Qahtani's interrogation caused outrage and shed fresh light on the techniques used in Guantánamo Bay when a logbook was leaked to Time magazine last year.

He was frequently awoken at 4am and interrogated until after midnight, with requests for toilet breaks refused until he wet himself, while Christina Aguilera music was played at him if he dozed off.

The list has previously been seen by members of the Red Cross, but was only publicly released after the Associated Press news agency sued US authorities under the freedom of information act.

It numbers all the detainees who have appeared at hearings in Guantánamo Bay to determine their combatant status.

The hearings took place between July 2004 and January 2005. All detainees at the prison between those dates received a hearing, but only 38 of them were determined to be "no longer enemy combatants" by the military tribunals, and only 29 of those were released.

A total of around 750 people are believed to have passed through the camp, and 490 are currently believed to be in custody there.

Groups working for the release of detainees welcomed the release of the list. Sayeed Sharif Youssefi, an official from Afghanistan's independent peace and reconciliation commission, said it would help in his efforts to obtain the release of Afghan detainees.

"This is very good news and it helps us because now it is easy for us to identify the Afghans in Guantánamo, learn how many there are and from which provinces they come from," he said.

Bill Goodman, legal director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights said: "This is information that should have been released a long time ago, and it's a scandal that it hasn't been."

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