In a recent op-ed penned by Guantanamo Bay detainee Samil Naji al Hasan Moqbel, the Yemen-born prisoner lists multiple grievances against Gitmo and demands that he be cleared of any wrong-doing. The piece originally ran in the New York Times and has started a firestorm of criticism from human rights activists who were quick to come to Moqbel’s defense.
Moqbel depicts himself as a victim who was promised work in Afghanistan and then left stranded. He fled Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S. invasion into neighboring Pakistan, where he was then arrested.
“I could have been home years ago,” said Moqbel. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch.”
“A childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try. I was wrong to trust him.”
Moqbel has joined 41 detainees in hunger strikes that started back in February, when guards were forced to search Qurans for contraband. Though Moqbel claims to have been assaulted by “military police in riot gear while sick in the hospital”, it appears that any use of force came when the officers were resisted during a cell search. Gitmo officials explained their reasoning for the search in a letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“There have been incidents of detainees storing contraband in their Qurans; items found have included improvised weapons, unauthorized food and medicine,” wrote William K. Lietzau, deputy assistant secretary of defense for rule of law and detainee policy.
Military officials have confirmed that the strikers have been fed through IVs, but deny claims of unprofessional behavior. Though human rights groups often oppose this process, officials argue it would be more inhumane to let detainees starve.
Moqbel went on to claim that the U.S. doesn’t even consider him a threat, but if that was the case, Obama’s executive ordered review board would have cleared him for release.
Unsurprisingly, it appears Moqbel isn’t who he claims to be. In a leaked Department of Defense assessment of Moqbel, officials labeled him as a high-risk threat, and detailed his capture with the “dirty 30”, a group of Osama Bin Laden’s closest allies and bodyguards. In addition, a Brookings Institute study examined the backgrounds of every Guantanamo prisoner and found that Samil Naji al Hasan Moqbel was in fact a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. The report goes on to confirm that Moqbel participated in Taliban attacks and supported the insurgency. Not exactly innocent behavior.
The prisoners that remain in Guantanamo pose a clear threat to the safety of the United States as demonstrated by the current administration’s reluctance to close the facility. It shouldn’t come as a shock that a former bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden’s would lie about his history and prison conditions. It is a shock, however, to find how quickly the world sides with a known threat.