When looking at the stories of the released Guantánamo prisoners, one of the most tragic individual stories of last year was that of Adel al-Gazzar (aka Adel El-Gazzar), a former officer in the Egyptian army, who lost a leg in US custody and spent eight years in Guantánamo. Adel returned to Egypt last June, after being freed in Slovakia in January 2010, where he embarked on a hunger strike to protest about the Slovakian government’s inability to look after him adequately, and where, at one point, he was interviewed by his fellow ex-prisoner Moazzam Begg in a powerful and revealing interview available here. On his return to Egypt, he was promptly arrested, and imprisoned based on trumped-up charges that had been used to secure a conviction against him while he was in Guantánamo, and while the now-deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak was in power.
In December, following six months of pressure from his lawyers — at the London-based legal action charity Reprieve — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces agreed to hear his case on December 27, in an appeal for a new trial, and on December 30, as AllAfrica.com reported, “The Military Court of Cassation accepted the claim of Adel Fattouh al-Gazzar for the re-trial,” noting that “Hafez Abu Seada, attorney at law, submitted the claim after Adel was sentenced to three years in prison.”
On January 16, Adel was freed, although the English-speaking media did not report the story, and I did not discover it until last week, when Moazzam Begg told me about it while we were in Brussels for a screening at the European Parliament of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with Polly Nash.
In searching for further information, I came across some video interviews conducted in Arabic immediately after Adel’s release, which I’ve cross-posted below, and when I put out a request for an Arabic speaker to translate the first, a two-minute teaser for the longer program, to get a flavour of what Adel was discussing, for those who, like myself, do not speak Arabic, a friend through Facebook, Aboubakr Seddik Ouahabi, offered to help and translated it. My thanks to him for his assistance.
Interviewer: Today, we’re visiting a brother of ours, who’s been released by the grace and the mercy of Almighty Allah. He was also detained previously in Guantánamo, so by the will of Allah, we will get to know him closely.
Adel al-Gazzar: Your brother in Islam, for the sake of Allah, Adel al-Gazzar. I was in Afghanistan, before the events of 9/11. I was working with the Saudi Red-Crescent, providing relief for the Afghans on the Pakistani-Afghan border. The complex, which I was working at with the Saudi Red-Crescent on the Pakistani-Afghan border, was hit, and they started putting us in ambulances on the basis of relocating us to the newer hospitals, or the bigger ones, which have better equipment. To do what? To do the surgical operations, but we were surprised to find ourselves in the airport of Quetta city, and the Pakistani regime handed us over to the American Marines.
[Adel also spoke about the longstanding claims that female interrogators had used their menstrual blood to humiliate prisoners, which some sources have said was not actually blood, but a substitute.]
Adel al-Gazzar: The hardest situation, which we were humiliated at, was when one of the American female interrogators, a criminal, and she was on her menstruation period, she was menstruating, put her hand in the place of the menstruation, then she took out the menstruation blood and she desecrated the Quran with it, the pages of the Holy Quran, and she desecrated with this blood the face of the brother, whom she was interrogating.
I want to say to those who’ve been deceived, deceived by the United States, and those deceived by the countries which are applying the democratic systems and the like, that these people … there might be some rights preserved between themselves, however, if the matter relates to others, especially to Muslims, then there’ll be no rights, and there’ll be no respect for any human values, or religious ones, or even those rights which they signed themselves.
America has deceived the world with a bunch of movies, which they believed due to the excess repetition of them, and America deceived the world with a group of … I mean, by the American Constitution as an example, and the values mentioned in it, but actually such a thing isn’t applicable in the real world, and I have a lot of evidence, arguments and proof, I mean besides my own story, evidence proving that.