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Carolyn Welshhans: A Scream in the Darkness

August 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Detainee Stories, Excerpts

Like all of my clients, Abdullah was arrested far away from any battlefield.  He was arrested in Pakistan by Pakistani border guards who turned him over to the United States at a time when our country was paying thousands of dollars, more than people in that part of the world make over many years, for anyone accused of being a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban.  Abdullah has been accused of making a suspicious trip to Pakistan in the company of an acquaintance alleged to be a member of al Qaeda.  He is not accused of attacking United States or coalition forces.  In fact, Abdullah was making a routine trip to Pakistan to buy supplies for the tire store owned by his family.  One of our incredible interpreters traveled to Afghanistan and met with the families of some of our clients.  She returned with many pictures of the large and impressive tire store.  This evidence was not difficult to obtain, and it bewilders us that our government has not made the same effort to determine whether the people it is holding are innocent civilians, sold to the U.S. by unscrupulous border guards.

We were very eager to show these pictures to Abdullah, and he was eager to see them.  The officials at Guantánamo cleared the pictures rather easily and gave us permission to show them to Abdullah.  It was a constant stuggle to leave Abdullah with color copies of these pictures that he can study in private.  The officials at Guantánamo keep giving him Xeroxed, black and white copies that are smeared and blurred to the point where it is impossible to see anything.  Abdullah’s excitement over the pictures stems in large part from the fact that some of them feature his friends and family, including his two little boys whom he has not seen in more than four years.  Abdullah also understands that the pictures demonstrate the existence of the tire store and provide evidence that his trip to Pakistan had a legitimate business purpose.  He asks how anyone could continue to believe that he had a nefarious reason for going to Pakistan, and he wants to know when someone from our government finally is going to investigate the lies behind the allegations.  I was worried before that first visit that Abdullah would be young and radical and want nothing to do with me.  What Abdullah wants are answers to his very piercing questions about why he is at Guantánamo.

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