Friday, June 26, 2009

Bush administration used false confession obtained by al Qaeda torture to falsely imprison a man

I previouly noted, after hearing Senator Harry Reid say that he won't allow President Obama to set "terrorists" free in the United States, that:

What is really so disgusting about Reid's statement is that it reflects and promotes the same lawless contempt for human rights that led to so many of the human rights abuses that have transpired since September 11. 2001 in the name of fighting "terror." The majority of individuals who have been held at Gitmo were not terrorists, nor were they picked up on a battlefield. They were not given a fair or honest system of due process. To designate those there as "terrorists" is reprehensible; nevermind the transparently idiotic notion that closing Guantanamo means terrorists would be set free in the United States.
Here's a perfect example of why it's so morally repugnant to use idiotic fear-mongering like Reid's to promulgate a systematic abuse of human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to this story breaking today, the federal judge ordering the release of yet another prisoner at Guantanamo, the thirty-year-old Syrian national named Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko, tortured by al-Qaeda in 2000, who accused him of being a Western spy, held by the Taliban for a year and a half, then held for years, for what? Seven years at Guantanamo? And the video that’s just been released? Explain this story.

ANDY WORTHINGTON: Well, it is the most extraordinary story, I think, and, you know, I’ve been following extraordinary stories of incompetence and wrongly imprisoned men for over three years now. But he was one of five men who were held in a Taliban jail. There were, I think, at least another three who were seized in—under other circumstances from Taliban jails, and yet were sent to Guantanamo. And all these other men have now gone home.

Now, a British journalist met him when he had been abandoned in this Taliban jail and came across his whole story, about how he had been accused of being a spy, tortured by al-Qaeda. And the extraordinary thing about this video is that initially the administration thought that it showed him being a potential suicide bomber. This is actually the false confession that he made as a result of being tortured by al-Qaeda.

I understand that the Bush administration would pursue this case, because they didn’t really want to admit that they had captured people by mistake, sent them to Guantanamo, when they shouldn’t have been sent there. For the Obama administration to have come in, for the Justice Department to have looked at this case, to have decided that it was worth taking in front of a habeas judge, and arguing that a man who was tortured and imprisoned for eighteen months by the Taliban still had some connection with these people, even though he had only ever been involved with them for about three weeks before they decided he was a spy, it just simply beggars belief, I think.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the federal judge in the case, US District Judge Richard Leon, said, “This is a tragedy…This is a nightmare for an innocent men being accused of all of these things.” He said, “He is a brave person and wants to tell his story. Instead, he gets mistaken for being a terrorist.”
It's worth noting that this was another incident where the Obama administration maintained continuity of policy with the Bush administration and offered the same argument for keeping this man in prison for being an "enemy combatant" member of al-Qaeda/the Taliban. A truly bizarre argument given that he was found by US forces in a Taliban prison, then shipped to Gitmo.

Amnesty International has more info on the apparent pin-ball torture al-Janko suffered first at the hands of al-Qaeda then the United States.

Prior to being taken into US custody, Abdul Rahim al Janko had been imprisoned by the Taleban. In a declaration signed in January 2009, he recalled that in early 2000, "first in Kabul, and later in Kandahar, the Taliban, as well as Al Qaeda officials, subjected me to severe torture and threats of death during long and painful and frightening interrogation sessions". He said that the torture included "severe beatings, electric shock, being hung from the ceiling, water torture, striking the bottom of my feet with clubs, striking my hand with the butt of a gun, and sleep deprivation". He added that "they also extinguished cigarettes onto my legs".1He said that he "falsely confessed to being a spy for the United States and Israel", and that his "confessions" were videotaped. After "three months of torture", Abdul Rahim al Janko said he was transferred to Sarpusa prison in Kandahar in May 2000 and held there until the Taleban abandoned the prison in December 2001 after the US military intervention in Afghanistan. The following month, Abdul Rahim al Janko was taken into US custody.

Meanwhile, several videotapes had been found in the rubble of suspected al-Qa'idaoperative Mohammed Atef's house near Kabul bombed in a US air strike on 16 November 2001. In January 2002 in the USA, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a press conference about the tapes. The Attorney General said that they "depict young men delivering what appear to be martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists", although there was no specific targets or timing indicated. He named one of the five as "Abd Al-Rahim", and stated that the men "may be trained and prepared to commit future suicide terrorist attacks".2In his ruling seven and a half years later, Judge Leon noted that

"Originally, the Government and the US media mistook Janko as one of a number of suicide martyrs based on videotapes at an al Qaeda safehouse. The tape involving Janko, however, was actually an al Qaeda torture tape."
Abdul Rahim al Janko said that after he was identified as one of the men on the videotapes, the interrogators at the Kandahar air base "began treating me very badly", including "striking me on the forehead; threatening to remove my fingernail; sleep deprivation; exposure to very cold temperatures; exercise to exhaustion doing sit-ups, push-ups, and running in chains; stress positions for hours at a time; use of police dogs; and rough treatment to take me to interrogation, although I did not resist or use violence".
Judge Leon, by Mitt Romney's standards, is obviously a "liberal." One who was appointed to his federal bench by George W. Bush, who as president, was notorious for appointing bleeding-heart liberals to the federal judiciary.

Update: Glenn Greenwald on reports that the Obama administration is contemplating using an Executive Order to recreate Bush administration claims of authority to indefinitely hold persons without due process.

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