Sami Al Haj

I am so upset right now. I have just been listening to Letters from Guantanamo on Radio 4 and it has left me really, really distraught. It is a set of letters from Sami El Haj, a camera operator with Al Jazeera captured crossing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1999. He had dual passports and visas; he had done this many times before in his coverage of the war. The border authorities accused him of filming Bin Laden then imprisoned him in Kandahar, before selling him to the Americans. Yes, selling him. As Musharraf admitted this week, the Pakistani government was a) threatened into joining the war and b) paid well to pass along captives. Notably, the Americans have admitted to paying bounties for Al Quaeda fighters but claimed to be surprised that the Pakistani government was involved. What terrifies me is that the Sudanese-born Sami is lucid, clever and an amazingly literate writer, whose letters are rich, stuffed with emotion and strength in the face of alleged horrors (the ones that make it through the censors). “The enormous statue cries out freedom and justice to all. But gradually the lights around Lady Liberty grow weaker and we see that she is either deceiving or deceived.” It is not clear whether Sami is an enemy combatant, a fanatical warrior who wants to see the west die. However, it seems unlikely and if this man, if any of these men are criminals, then let us try them and be done with it. If the allegations do not stand up in a court of law, then let them go free. Sure, follow them if you want, if you still suspect them. Nevertheless, for these individuals this horror should not continue, it is illegal, against the Geneva conventions, against the moral law that trickles even inside me. I am horrified and angry, convinced by the honest beauty of this man’s words. More Sami, as far as I can remember from the programme, “The light in the statue’s hand flickers and may go out. One day men may stand around this wreck and say one day ‘here stood a great thing, liberty.” God, if you exist, damn Guantanamo bay and those who uphold it.

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