Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 22, 2010

Omar Deghayes: seeing clearly into Guantanamo

In response to a post by Eric Martin of Obsidian Wings about the denial of legal rights to people accused of terrorism, regular/right-winger Marty quotes Scott Brown: “And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation – they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.”

and claims that “for better or worse” this answers the question about why people who have been accused of terrorism ought not to receive the same legal rights as people accused of any other crime.

Here’s one of the “enemies in wartime”: Omar Deghayes, a refugee from Gadaffi (his father was executed in Libya in 1980) who was a legal British resident since age 10, whose wife and son are British citizens, who was taken in Pakistan when he took his family there to escape the war in Afghanistan after “the Americans began paying large amounts of money to find Arabs who had been in Afghanistan”.

In Guantanmo Bay:

It is not hot stabbing pain that Omar Deghayes remembers from the day a Guantánamo guard blinded him, but the cool sen­sation of fingers being stabbed deep into his eyeballs. He had joined other prisoners in protesting against a new humiliation – inmates ­being forced to take off their trousers and walk round in their pants – and a group of guards had entered his cell to punish him. He was held down and bound with chains.

“I didn’t realise what was going on until the guy had pushed his fingers ­inside my eyes and I could feel the coldness of his fingers. Then I realised he was trying to gouge out my eyes,” Deghayes says. He wanted to scream in agony, but was determined not to give his torturers the satisfaction. Then the officer standing over him instructed the eye-stabber to push harder. “When he pulled his hands out, I remember I couldn’t see anything – I’d lost sight completely in both eyes.” Deghayes was dumped in a cell, fluid streaming from his eyes.

The sight in his left eye returned over the following days, but he is still blind in his right eye. He also has a crooked nose (from being punched by the guards, he says) and a scar across his forefinger (slammed in a prison door), but otherwise this resident of Saltdean, near Brighton, appears ­relatively ­unscarred from the more than five years he spent locked in Guantánamo Bay.

read the rest

The “evidence” against Omar Deghayes, aside from the US having paid the Pakistani authorities a lot of money for him (apparently the Libyans and the Americans were competing in the auction) is that someone spotted someone who looked like him in an “Islamic terrorist” videotape: a Chechnyan rebel called Abu Walid, who is dead. His lawyers were denied access to the videotape by the American authorities: they eventually obtained a copy via the BBC and were able to show that the tape was of a different person.

Omar Deghayes is one of at least eight hundred of the US’s kidnap victims who suffered illegal imprisonment for years. He’s one of eight hundred people that Scott Brown claims are “enemies in wartime”. He’s a legal British resident whose brutal treatment Scott Brown defends because he’s not a US citizen and so was not entitled to any of the legal rights of a US citizen – including the right not to have your guards stick their fingers in your eyes and half-blind you: including the right for your lawyers to be able to see the evidence for the charges alleged against you.

Omar Deghayes did not take up arms against the US: he did not engage in criminal activity: he went to Afghanistan to do charitable work for some of the poorest people on Earth, and he fled to Pakistan to save his family when the US attacked. Yet Marty repeats this lie – that Omar Deghayes is an “enemy in wartime” and so this brutal treatment is justified – and will not explain why he thinks the lie answers the question.

Why is that?

A year ago, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay within 12 months. Even though his intent was to move many of the prisoners to another illegal prison camp in Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, he has not yet managed even the face-saving exercise of closing down the US’s best known prison camp: the Cuban oubliette.

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