Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Protesters Draw Attention to Guantanamo

(Inter Press Service)

“My name is Ahmed Mohammed,” she told police after her arrest outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington in January. Last Thursday, in a courtroom in Washington, DC, she has—at her own insistence—been charged under that name, although her real one is Sherrill Hogen.

"Torture is a product of a sick society, of leaders bloated with power and fear, and is the antithesis of human goodness, compassion and love,” Hogen told the DC Superior Court, “I don’t think I have a choice about where to put my energies."

Hogen, a 69-year-old retired social worker, was arrested in front of the Supreme Court building while protesting against the indefinite detention of the alleged terror suspects at the U.S. military base in the Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay.

Like 34 other activists who took part in the protest on the doorstep of the Supreme Court building on January 11, Hogen is now facing trial on minor criminal charges ranging from "unlawful free speech" to disorderly conduct.

"We came to the Supreme Court building because it has jurisdiction over the [primary] issue about which we knew there were violations of justice," she said to the judge last Thursday. "[That is] the denial of habeas corpus to the prisoners held by the U.S. at Guantanamo."

Ashley Casale, a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, expressed the same sentiments.

"I am 19—the youngest person in this courtroom—and I come on behalf of all the prisoners at Guantanamo who were younger than I am now when they were detained," she said in her statement before the court.

"According to the U.S. Constitution," she went on, "we have a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and Guantanamo Bay prison is beyond grievous."

Michael Foley, a professor at the City University of New York, who teaches students about the U.S. Constitution, said: "[If] you told me that the defendants would be arrested for ‘unlawful free speech’ just 20 feet from where the justices decide First Amendment cases, I’d say you were crazy."

During the trial, 13 of the 35 activists had dressed in orange jumpsuits to express their solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners, who have been denied their own day in court.

All the activists are representing themselves at the Superior Court trial, which began last Tuesday.

On January 11, a day that marked the start of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay some six years ago, Matthew Daloisio, one of the defendants, gave his name as Yasser Al Zahrani, a 22-year-old Yemeni national who was picked up at the age of 17 and held in a Guantanamo prison cell. Zahrani was never charged nor tried; in desperation, he apparently killed himself on June 10, 2006.

Daloisio and many of his colleagues who were detained after the January protest were not carrying identification cards and refused to give their real names, instead using the names of Guantanamo prisoners.

Bill Pickard, 61, a Catholic priest from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is one of those who adopted the name of a Guantanamo prisoner for official record. He will be tried as Faruq Ali Ahmed.

"I went to the Supreme Court to make a simple plea that the inhumane treatment and actual torture of inmates at Guantanamo Bay stop," Pickard said. He said he went to bring attention to the name and the humanity of Ahmed, who claimed that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 simply to teach the Koran to children and that he had no affiliation with the Taliban or al Qaeda.

"He cannot do it himself," said Pickard, "so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law, and my conscience to do it for him."

In his statement, Daloisio told the judge: "As we stand before you today, we are aware that in the five months since our arrest, we have made it further in the criminal justice system than these men have in over six years," referring to the plight of Guantanamo prisoners.

According to witnesses, the judge began to interrupt Daloisio once, but then let him complete his statement.

"We understand that you, Judge Gardner, are not the reason Guantanamo is still open," Daloisio said. "It may be beyond your power to summon the men whose names appear on this court’s docket from their Guantanamo cells to face their charges and their accuser … to have their day in court.

"We mean no disrespect in our position towards this trial," he added. "But we will not participate."

After reading the statement, Daloisio and 12 other defendants remained silent for the duration of the trial.

Daloisio said he and the others on trial were pro se defendants, and thus declined to be represented by an attorney. "We will not exercise our rights when our country continues to deny the rights of others," he said.

Daloisio, Hogen, and the 33 other activists are facing charges related to "speeches, objectionable language … and assemblages" on Supreme Court grounds. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, as well as fines and court fees.

Witness Against Torture, a group that organized the January 11 protests, said its campaign has drawn substantial support from a number of faith groups and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

In April, Amnesty launched a unique nationwide campaign for the closure of the Guantanamo prison. Its activists are going city to city with an exhibit depicting actual-sized replicas of the Guantanamo cells. The group said it arranged the prison cell exhibit because most citizens don’t understand the inhumane conditions that prisoners at Guantanamo are enduring while they remain uncertain about any possible trial or release date.

"The government has made it impossible for people to get to Guantanamo to see this, so we wanted to bring a bit of the reality to the public," said Amnesty USA’s executive director, Larry Cox. "To stand inside this cell gives them some sense of the psychological hell of being held in a box for years."

Despite protests by human rights groups and international condemnation, the Bush administration continues to defend indefinite detentions by saying that Guantanamo is outside U.S. territory so constitutional protections do not apply to those held there. That argument has been consistently challenged by U.N. experts and human rights groups at home and abroad.

Currently, there are about 270 inmates being held at the Guantanamo prison. U.S. military authorities say they have plans to prosecute about 80 of them.

Haider Rizvi writes for the Inter Press Service.

Citations

Haider Rizvi, “Protesters Draw Attention to Guantanamo,” Right Web, with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4918.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   Latest Comments & Conversation Area
Editor's Note: IRC editors read and approve eachcomment. Comments are checked for content and to a lesser degree forspelling and grammatical errors. Comments that include vulgar language andlibelous content are rejected, as are comments that do not directlyrespond to the published IRC article.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a pressure group founded in early 2019 that serves as a watchdog and enforcer of Israel’s reputation in the Democratic Party.


Richard Grenell is the U.S. ambassador to Germany for the Donald Trump administration, known for his brusque and confrontational style.


Zalmay Khalilzad is Donald Trump’s special representative to the Afghan peace process, having previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


The decline in Israel’s appeal to Democrats is directly related to the wider awareness of the country’s increasingly authoritarian nature, its treatment of Palestinians, and its reluctance to take substantive steps toward peace. Pro-Israel liberals face a fundamental paradox trying to reconcile Israel’s illiberalism with their political values.


RightWeb
share