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Muhammad Rahim denied justice: his family responds

On Tuesday 20 September 2016, the parole review board (PRB) made it public that it has refused to clear for release 50-year-old Muhammad Rahim al Afghani, the last detainee tortured by the CIA. He remains a “forever prisoner” and “high value detainee” imprisoned without charge.

Crucially, the PRB did not make any mention of Rahim’s torture, even though the office-holders who ordered it were identified by name in official documents.


Read more: The man who ended the CIA’s torture programme seeks release from Guantanamo

“Our family is sad but we will continue to work for his release”, his brother said to CAGE upon learning the PRB’s decision. “As Allah says in the Qur’an: Say: “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us.”

In a brief decision released by the Pentagon, the PRB made a series of allegations about his past and speculated about his intent in the future if released.

Mr Rahim was denied legal advice as his attorney Carlos Warner was not permitted to participate in the hearing.

Mr Warner is convinced that his client is being held because he holds crucial information about the CIA torture programme. “He is being held because he was in a black site, not because of what he did. If he did those things, why didn’t they charge him?”, Mr Warner said to the Miami Herald.

In unclassified letters previously published by his lawyers, Muhammad Rahim said: “I am not high value. They call me high value because the CIA tortured me… I thought I could prove my innocence in the US, I was wrong.”

Muhammad Rahim will remain imprisoned in Guantanamo with little recourse to justice, by the world’s most vociferous proponent of freedom and human rights.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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“Afghanistan needs intelligent and peaceful men like Muhammad Rahim.” CAGE interviews former military lawyer who says Rahim should be released to go home.

Muhammad Rahim is a high value detainee, currently held at Guantanamo Bay prison since 2008. His story is one of kidnap, rendition and torture. He was the last detainee to go through the infamous CIA ‘detention and interrogation’ programme. You can read his full story with details exclusively revealed by CAGE here.

On the 4th of August 2016, Rahim appeared before a parole review board seeking his release from Guantanamo. He is the first high value detainee to be considered for release and a decision on his case is expected in the very near future. If he is refused, the next time he will be eligible for a review will be in another two years.

CAGE exclusively interviewed, Lt. Commander Kevin Bogucki, Rahim’s former military lawyer, about his client, the alleged charges against him and his prospects of freedom.


Read more: Muhammad Rahim, The man who ended the CIA’s torture programme

CAGE: Can you describe your client as a man?

KB: Muhammad Rahim is one of the most intelligent and personable men I have ever met.  He is genuinely friendly and has a rare sense of humor that keeps me smiling throughout our meetings. In fact, I am consistently impressed by Muhammad Rahim’s ability to maintain a positive attitude in such a hostile and uncomfortable environment. It is a testament to his faith and his strength of character.

CAGE: How did the people who knew him and whom you’ve met describe him ?

KB: When I visited Jalalabad, Afghanistan, I met with more than thirty elders of the Nangarhar province, each of whom had clear memories of Muhammad Rahim. They described him as a peaceful, caring teacher, who would go out of his way to help people.  Each elder provided a letter, attesting to Muhammad Rahim’s peaceful nature and personally guaranteeing his good conduct if he were returned to Afghanistan.

CAGE: What impact did the treatment he suffered at the hand of the CIA have on him?

KB: [I prefer not to answer this question.]

CAGE: What is his legal status and does he have any hope for release?

KB: Muhammad Rahim’s legal status is truly unfortunate. I often describe Guantanamo as an upside-down and backward world, where the guilty have more rights than the innocent. If a Guantanamo detainee is actually guilty of a war crime, and the United States has evidence to prove it, the United States will take him to trial and he will have an opportunity to plead his case to a judge. If he is convicted, he will serve a sentence and then be released and returned home (e.g., Salim Hamdan). But if a Guantanamo detainee has not committed any crime, the United States will never take him to trial, he will never have an opportunity to prove his innocence, and he will remain confined indefinitely. This is the case with Muhammad Rahim. Since he is not guilty of any war crime, the United States will never take him to trial. And, if he never goes to trial, he will never have an opportunity to prove his innocence. He will remain confined at Guantanamo indefinitely.

In fact, Muhammad Rahim’s situation is worse than that of other Guantanamo detainees, because the United States has labeled him a “High Value Detainee.” This was not because Muhammad Rahim committed a serious crime against the United States (like the alleged planners of the 9/11 attacks), but only because the United States once believed he had valuable information. Nonetheless, Muhammad Rahim now shares the same label as men like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and no United States government official has the political will to release him. As a “High Value Detainee,” Muhammad Rahim may remain confined for the rest of his life, even though he is not guilty of any crime.

CAGE: What do you say about the accusations made against him?

KB: The United States claims Muhammad Rahim, who speaks both Arabic and Pashto, was an interpreter for the senior-most members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But, even if this were true, it does not constitute a war crime. At most, it would amount to “material support for terrorism,” something the United States Federal Courts have said is not a crime that can be tried at a military commission (the only court system available to try Guantanamo detainees). Thus, the United States cannot possibly convict Muhammad Rahim of a crime and will not take him to trial. Instead, the United States will continue to hold Muhammad Rahim at Guantanamo, without a trial of any kind. This is contrary to any notion of due process or fundamental fairness.

CAGE: What could he do if released?

KB: While it is unlikely the United States will ever release Muhammad Rahim, he remains hopeful he will one day be able to return to his family, who are struggling terribly without him. I have no doubt that if Muhammad Rahim were returned to Afghanistan, he would contribute greatly to his community as a teacher and a businessman. Afghanistan needs intelligent and peaceful men like Muhammad Rahim, and there is no reason he should continue to be held at Guantanamo Bay.


WRITE TO MUHAMMAD RAHIM. SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: CONTACT@CAGEUK.ORG


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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The man who ended the CIA’s torture programme seeks release from Guantanamo

CAGE reveals exclusive details about the life, kidnap and conditions of Muhammad Rahim, the last person placed in the CIA torture programme and last transferred to Guantanamo.

On 4 August, Muhammad Rahim appeared in front a Parole Board Review at Guantanamo Bay prison, seeking release. The 51-year-old man, who disappeared for 8 months in a network of CIA black sites and the rest of the time at Guantanamo Bay for almost ten years without charge, is the last prisoner in the CIA’s torture programme.

Rahim has the dubious honour of being the individual that compelled the CIA to re-evaluate its ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods, and essentially shut down its torture programme, simply because, after facing this brutality, Rahim yielded no useful information.

According to the Senate Torture Report, “the CIA’s RDG convened an after-action review of the CIA’s interrogation of Muhammad Rahim. (…),the CIA review panel attempted to determine why the CIA had been unsuccessful in acquiring useful information from Rahim.”

The summary document emphasised that the decision to use coercive techniques immediately was a primary factor. It recommended that the CIA conduct a survey of interrogation techniques used by other U.S. government agencies and other countries in an effort to develop effective interrogation methods.

No one was put through the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme after this review.

Rahim’s “interrogations” comprised of brutal methods which included attention grasps, facial holds, abdominal slaps, and dietary manipulation – euphemisms for hanging, starving, beating and crushing of organs. He also suffered eight extensive sleep deprivation sessions – where he was shackled in a standing position, wearing virtually nothing, in one session for as long as 138.5 hours.

Despite his treatment at the hands of the CIA, Muhammad Rahim seems to have kept unique traits of character. Former military lawyer Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki said of him:

“Muhammad Rahim is one of the most intelligent and personable men I have ever met.  He is genuinely friendly and has a rare sense of humour that keeps me smiling throughout our meetings. In fact, I am consistently impressed by Muhammad Rahim’s ability to maintain a positive attitude in such a hostile and uncomfortable environment.  It is a testament to his faith and his strength of character.”

Release him, say elders

Tribal leaders from the Chaparhar district from where Rahim hails, have called for his release , with members claiming that he was merely sold by the Pakistani intelligence service to the United States, in its bounty-based dragnet post 9/11.

At a recent traditional Jirga, elders and community representatives called for his return to Afghanistan:

“In the case of Muhammad Raheem – all of us of Chaparhar are witnesses that he is a respectable and honourable man from an educated family. His family is well known to us and he has often worked for the benefit of the community and the elders..(…) It is a grave injustice that he has been sent to Guantanamo.. Afghans don’t (seem to) have the same human rights. If they had the same human rights, then his wife, sister, brothers, daughter, relatives would be able to see him. Instead human rights have been trampled all over.”

These testimonies should be taken seriously. Former military lawyer Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki wrote of his meeting with the tribal elders:

“When I visited Jalalabad, Afghanistan, I met with more than thirty elders of the Nangarhar province, each of whom had clear memories of Muhammad Rahim.  They described him as a peaceful, caring teacher, who would go out of his way to help people.  Each elder provided a letter, attesting to Muhammad Rahim’s peaceful nature and personally guaranteeing his good conduct if he were returned to Afghanistan”.

From school teacher to Pashto translator

Muhammad Rahim Al Afghani was born in the Chaparhar district, in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. His family found refuge in Pakistan when he was just 12, where he started and graduated school in the early 80s. At the age of 16/17 years old, he joined the mujahideen, like most other Afghans, to fight for their land – answering the call of political and religious institutions which presented it as a religious duty – a call  supported, at that time, by the United States.

When the Soviets were defeated, Rahim returned to his civilian life and worked as a school teacher, and a trader. Notably, he became the financial officer Nangarhar Drug Control and Development Office, a UN agency dedicated to eradicate opium in the province, between 1994 to 1995.

According to his former military defense counsel Kevin Bogucki: “The United States claims Muhammed Rahim, who speaks both Arabic and Pashto, was an interpreter for the senior-most members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  But, even if this were true, it does not constitute a war crime.  At most, it would amount to “material support for terrorism,” something the United States Federal Courts have said is not a crime that can be tried at a military commission (the only court system available to try Guantanamo detainees).  Thus, the United States cannot possibly convict Muhammad Rahim of a crime and will not take him to trial.  Instead, the United States will continue to hold Muhammed Rahim at Guantanamo, without a trial of any kind.  This is contrary to any notion of due process or fundamental fairness”


Read more: Founding member of Taliban lifts the lid on the real Afghanistan

Sold to the United States by Pakistan to face torture

The US government has shrouded Rahim’s story in secrecy.

In 2007, Rahim was captured in Lahore, Pakistan, while on a bus with his family. Several jeeps surrounded the bus and security personnel forced them into a car. They were taken to a possibly ISI site and separated. Rahim was then brought back to his family, shackled with his hands behind his back and gave them a parting advice:

“I am innocent, everything will be fine. Seek a good education”, said Rahim before he was taken out.

Hours later the family, which included 6 children was dropped in the middle of nowhere and released. Muhammad Rahim disappeared and was taken to different black sites to be tortured.

In 2008, the White House suddenly announced he was in Guantanamo, alleging he had been a translator and aid to Bin Laden. Classified as a high value detainee, it later transpired that Rahim’s torture was requested by the then head of the CIA Michael Hayden and allowed directly by US President George Bush.

Since then, while in custody, he has memorised the Qur’an, more than 1,000 hadith and studied French, and later on became well known for his witty letters to his lawyer, his wry sense of humour despite his circumstances and his stoic faith, testified in a letter to his lawyer in which he wrote:

“I have dignity. Those who humiliated me and hurt me do not. I pray for them now”.

Forever prisoner

Rahim has not been charged with any crime, but he will not be released, and is classified as a “forever prisoner”. It is suspected that this is due to the fact that he holds key knowledge about the CIA’s torture programme. His revelations would surely cause great embarrassment for the US administration.

Since his arrival, he has been detained in camp 7, the most secretive site in Guantanamo, alongside 14 other “high-value detainees”.

“Muhammad Rahim’s legal status is truly unfortunate.  I often describe Guantanamo as an upside-down and backward world, where the guilty have more rights than the innocent”, Kevin Bogucki said.

Perhaps Rahim’s words are the most telling. In a letter to his lawyer, he said:  “How do I get out of here? I am innocent and I was tortured, hung from the ceiling until I was dead. I am not high-value. They call me high value because they tortured me. How do we undo this injustice?”

The Parole Board Review is due to give its decision within weeks.


Write to Muhammad Rahim. Send your letters to: contact@cageuk.org

 


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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Urgent appeal for legal funds for Mosa Zemmouri

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CAGE is launching an urgent appeal for funds for legal assistance for Mosa Zemmouri, who is currently languishing in solitary confinement in Belgium, pending upcoming court hearing.

(London, UK) CAGE is launching an urgent appeal for funds for legal assistance for Mosa Zemmouri, who is currently languishing in solitary confinement in Belgium, pending upcoming court hearing. 
 

Innocent in Guantanamo

Zemmouri was abducted and sold to the United States by Pakistani security forces after 9/11. He was then illegally rendered to a detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In February 2003, he was transported to Guantanamo Bay prison, aged only 23, where he was incarcerated for the next three years without any charge or trial and under torture.
 
After three years, the United States and later Belgian authorities cleared him of any wrongdoing, and he was released an innocent man. 
 
After his release, he participated in conferences run by CAGE campaigning for the rights of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. He opened the conferences with emotional recitations of the Quran.
 

Shaky charges

Zemmouri was arrested in 2015 on shaky charges relating to a robbery near a residence in Antwerp in July. Authorities immediately alleged in the media that a weapon had been recovered in his car and that he had assisted the four men to commit the robbery by providing information in order to finance terrorist activities in Syria.
 
However, when pressed by the lawyers, the police admitted that no weapon had been found in his car. Rather, they had searched his neighbour’s car and found a Taser.
 
Furthermore, the alleged head of the group arrested at the scene admitted that he had received the information necessary to commit the robbery from a fifth man, not Mosa Zemmouri.
 
Investigators found numerous communications between the alleged leader of the group and the fifth man. The confession and the communications led to the fifth man’s arrest.
 
The fifth man, however, was released immediately.
 

Inhumane conditions

Zemmouri has been placed in isolation. He is kept under those conditions pending investigation. He is however, due to appear in court this week and his family already owes lawyers over 20 000 euros. Zemmouri is not eligible for legal aid due to the nature of the allegations, but zakat can be made.
 

Donate now

CAGE is appealing to all those of means to assist Zemmouri in his case before the Belgian court. Money should be transferred to his wife: 
 
Name: Patrzlek
IBAN: NL93RABO0117298735
BIC: RABONL2U
 
You can also donate online here
 
He is represented by lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge from Van Steenbrugge
 
 

 

For more information on Mosa Zemmouri, please see his full case profile here


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.

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CAGE court victory exposes Charity Commission torture links

By: Moazzam Begg

 

Following the recent court settlement in favour of CAGE, Outreach Director Moazzam Begg discusses the case and how it has revealed the shocking influence of those who support Guantanamo and torture within the Charity Commission.

 

This week CAGE appeared in the High Court against the Charity Commission in a landmark case to determine whether the latter acted beyond its powers in seeking assurances from charities that funded CAGE to agree to never do so again. The matter was deemed so serious that the case was adjudicated by the Lord Chief Justice, Britain’s highest judge.

 

CAGE advocates for accountability under law

 

To those of us on the inside, this action didn’t occur in a vacuum. Despite CAGE’s crucial achievements, which have included advocacy against rendition and torture; facilitating dialogue between former Guantanamo soldiers and prisoners; and, negotiating the release of hostages in Iraq and Syria, British governments have been rattled by CAGE for one reason: accountability.

 

We have facilitated important roles in the criminal investigation into MI5/6 torture complicity; we were important contributors to the now defunct Torture Inquiry and, we are regularly called upon by mainstream media to comment on these matters and others beyond them, such as the failed PREVENT policy that is now, astonishingly, law.

 

People understand that because we have been on the receiving end of these measures, we have become experts in the field by necessity. There are many in the terrorism industry who don’t like that. Hence, there has been a concerted effort to shut CAGE down.

 

Last year, after the government falsely imprisoned me and froze my assets, CAGE’s bank accounts were closed without explanation and tremendous pressure placed on individuals connected to the organisation. Despite the police’s eventual declaration of my innocence and a written undertaking by the Treasury that CAGE was not under any investigation, its accounts remain closed to date.

 

The brutal murder of British aid-worker Alan Henning by ISIS executioner “Jihadi John” brought to light revelations that both CAGE and I had worked hard – even from within prison – to secure Henning’s release. This was acknowledged by David Cameron even though we held the government at fault for its multiple failures.

 

Following revelations that “Jihadi John” was Mohammed Emwazi, a former client of CAGE who had complained about harassment from the security services, CAGE research director Asim Qureshi, who’d met with him, said, in his view, the Emwazi of 2011 that he knew had been a “beautiful man”, during a press conference. That’s all our detractors needed. The fact that Qureshi referred to Emwazi in the past tense or that his former teachers has also described him as a “lovely, lovely, boy,” was irrelevant.
In the ensuing frenzy, CAGE members were labelled “apologists for terrorism”. The Charity Commission asserts it felt compelled to seek assurances from our supporters to cease funding us as a result.

 

Notwithstanding my own views on ISIS, CAGE admittedly made big mistakes in handling the affair. We have accepted this and learned from it, following an external enquiry we commissioned in response. British security services may have driven him to feel like a suicidal “dead man walking”, but Jihadi John and ISIS were responsible for killing the hostages, not them.

 

William Shawcross

 

William Shawcross is a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative and was a board member of the pro-Zionist, anti-Muslim Henry Jackson Society. HJS Associate Director, Douglas Murray, once infamously opined “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”, which of course they since have. Anti-Muslim hate crime is up by 70% in London alone. Shawcross himself said, “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”. Disturbingly, William Shawcross proudly defends torture methods, like waterboarding, and he supports Guantanamo.

 

In 2012, Shawcross was appointed by Cameron to lead the Charity Commission. Since then the number of Muslim charities put under special investigations has rocketed to unprecedented levels. Currently, over a quarter of all Charity Commission investigations focus on Muslim cases, 55 of them coded under “extremism and radicalization” labels.

 

During court proceedings this week, disclosed emails revealed the extent to which the Commission was unduly influenced by foreign entities, media and politicians. Here are a few:

 

  • 1 March 2015: Shawcross emailed the board referring to “another compelling article on the true nature of Cage”. Written by Andrew Gilligan, the piece in the Daily Telegraph claimed Cage were “extremists peddling lies to British Muslims to turn them into supporters of terror”. Gilligan is well-known and has been exposed for his anti-Muslim bias by fellow journalists.
  • 27 February 2015: Shawcross said he’d “spent the last 24 hours in Washington with senior US government counter-terrorism officials” and that “one senior analyst thought it was astonishing that Cage was not long ago exposed for what it is – a jihadist front”.
  • March 2015: Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland secretary, wrote to Shawcross: “It is wholly unacceptable for charities supported by the taxpayer to be funding an extremist group like this one [CAGE].” Villiers also urged Shawcross to stop charities from funding CAGE. Government ministers applying political pressure on independent bodies is clearly wrong.

 

In another email, Shawcross said: “Cage and Begg are both awful – and, like all Islamists, are very skilled at lawfare, in particular libel litigation.” Lawfare is a term Shawcross often uses to berate users of the legal process in the War on Terror. The suggestion that we shouldn’t have sought legal redress following years of torture and imprisonment without trial fits nicely with Shawcross’ stated views. They do not, however, seem to be very British – or legal. Even US President Barack Obama has repudiated the use of waterboarding as unacceptable torture. Torture and false imprisonment are crimes.

 

It is reprehensible that a man who openly endorses Guantanamo and torture can seek to regulate its former prisoners and those who fight against it, let alone head the Charity Commission. His position is untenable and he should be forced to resign.

 

In the end, CAGE agreed to cease litigation against the Charity Commission after the latter was “forced to to climb down from its attempt to prohibit charities from funding CAGE.” In other words, funders are now free to support us without any future Commission interference again.
This case raises further troubling questions about the Commission’s treatment of Muslim charities and its potential use of intimidation and undue pressure.

 

The impact of CAGE’s challenge has been felt across the charitable sector and will empower others concerned by government overreach. “At a time when the Charity Commission is seeking yet more powers from Parliament, today’s outcome should give lawmakers strong pause for thought,” wrote Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond. We completely agree.

 

(CC image courtesy of Crystal Hendrix Hirschorn on Flickr)

NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.