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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Wrongfully Imprisoned

Dexter Cooke
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jun 16, 2008

If I can piggyback on Aziz’s good Boumediene piece, check out this McClatchy piece by Tom Lasseter. It’s about innocents detained at Guantanamo Bay, and it underscores the importance of due process. Some thousand-year-old concepts really do stand the test of time.

Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo’s Camp Four who hissed “infidel” and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn’t: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

“He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government,” a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

Can you imagine being held for years on the basis of a mistake, without facing any charge, entirely at the discretion of your jailer? To suffer through the loss of your liberty, the destruction of your life, torture, psychological degradation, minimal contact (if any) with your family, forced feedings, and suicide attempts? And all the while, your captors call you a terrorist — linking you, implicitly, to 9/11, and thereby exploiting the American people’s desire for revenge — and proclaim that their kangaroo court system, invented on the fly, provides good-enough justice for the likes of you? I’ve seen the cells at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. I walked the blocks. I watched a man in an orange jumpsuit, shackled by his feet and neck to the flatbed of a small vehicle, carted from one side of the camp to another, glowering at us all the way. I shuddered.

We should really stop calling them “detainees.” Until Thursday’s Boumediene ruling, the men held within Camp Delta were, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

Dexter Cooke | He is an orthopedic surgeon who insists that a physician's first priority should be patient care. He specializes in minimally invasive complete knee replacement surgery and laparoscopic procedures that reduce pain and recovery time. He graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina with a medical degree and a postdoctoral fellowship in orthopedic medicine.

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