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Friday, May 2, 2008

Sami al-Hajj Free at Last!

Six years of his life stolen by this criminal administration...............

Al Jazeera Cameraman Freed From Guantanamo After Six Years
Thursday, May 01 2008 @ 06:39 PM EDT
Edited by: Michael Hess

Sami al-Hajj endured a long hunger strike, forced feedings, beatings and isolation with no charge

BBSNews 2008-05-01 -- Al Jazeera is reporting that their cameraman, Sami al-Hajj, held without charge in Guantanamo Bay for nearly six years has been released and is on a plane to his native Sudan. Al-Hajj was working as a cameraman in Afghanistan in December 2001 when he was captured by Pakistani authorities, held for 23 days and subsequently handed over to US forces. After various stops including the widely reviled Bagram AFB detention center, in Afghanistan, Al-Hajj spent nearly the last six years in the infamous prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he was held without charge.

Al-Hajj, known as prisoner number 345, has been a source of lasting shame for the United States as there seemed to be a clear double standard for world press services on one hand, and Al Jazeera on the other. The question has often been asked if such a scenario could be imagined for a cameraman from CNN or BBC, and the answer has invariably been that there seemed to be a troubling bias against the Arab satellite television news organization in particular because of the sheer length of time that went by with no charges ever laid against Al-Hajj, although there have been nearly a dozen journalists held and released by US forces in the interim. However one Canadian journalist is still being held without charge at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera is reporting that A-Hajj was told by US authorities at least several times that he could go free if he spied against Al Jazeera and reported back to American handlers. He refused, and during the last sixteen months he was on a hunger strike so he was force fed by the Americans, with a tube brutally forced down his nostril and down his throat twice a day.

Another former inmate of Guantanamo, Martin Mubanga, of Great Britain, yet another detainee who was released after not being charged in 2005, was interviewed during the wait for Al-Hajj's plane to arrive in Khartoum and he spoke of the inhumanity of Guantanamo where even a refusal to leave the cage for "recreation" would bring a IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) team dressed in full riot gear who would sometimes drenching Al-Hajj in pepper spray, throw him to the ground and bruise him up.

Many campaigners, journalists, human rights organizations, The Committee to Protect Journalists and individual Americans have called for Guantanamo Bay to be closed, end the practice of torture, and release prisoners who are being held without charge in the so-called "war on terror" that as feared, has turned out to be as selective in its prosecution as has the so-called American War on Some Drugs.

Keith Ellison, the US Congressman from Minnesota, tried in November 2007 to get Al-Hajj released according to a Web site called Prisoner345devoted to the Sami Al-Hajj ordeal. Ellison, a Democrat readers may remember, was embroiled in a controversy of his own as he was the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress.

He also caused quite a stir with anti-Muslim groups such as "The American Family Association" and columnist Dennis Prager, who wrote a scathing and bigoted column that provoked outcry among moderate and progressive Americans, and solidarity between Prager and some of the most virulent racists in America who hated the idea of Ellison using the Quran as his holy book during the photo-op swearing in ceremony. No book is used for the actual swearing in, a religious test to hold office is unconstitutional (for now) in the US.

Sami Al-Hajj is scheduled to arrive in Khartoum at about 7:30 pm Eastern US time where his family is waiting to greet him as well as feed him because he vowed to not eat until he was back in his native Sudan.

The Pentagon is expected to make a statement sometime near the time that Al_hajj's plane sets down. It may be entirely coincidental that the release is happening just prior to World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The Committee to Protect Journalists conducted a study that shows worldwide, about 17% of journalists who are jailed for whatever reason, are held without charge.

Video: Sami al-Hajj released from Guantanamo - 02 May 08

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