"Our eyes have the right to shed tears…"

A Sudanese journalist working for Al-Jazeera Television was released from Guantanamo prison camp yesterday after six years of detention and sixteen months on a hunger strike. He was never charged with any crime.

Upon his arrival in Sudan, he was carried off the plane on a stretcher, and taken straight to the hospital.

AP quoted him as telling Al-Jazeera from his hospital bed: “Thank God … for being free again … Our eyes have the right to shed tears after we have spent all those years in prison. … But our joy is not going to be complete until our brothers in Guantanamo Bay are freed … Some of our brothers live without clothing” .

AP reported that “Al-Haj was detained in December 2001 by Pakistani authorities as he tried to enter Afghanistan to cover the U.S.-led invasion. He was turned over to the U.S. military and taken in January 2002 to Guantanamo Bay, where the United States holds some 275 men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, most of them without charges. Reprieve, the British human rights group that represents 35 Guantanamo prisoners including al-Haj, said Pakistani forces apparently seized al-Haj at the behest of the U.S. authorities who suspected he had interviewed Osama bin Laden. But that ‘supposed intelligence’ turned out to be false, Reprieve said in a news release … Attorney Zachary Katznelson of Reprieve, who met al-Haj at Guantanamo on April 11, said … ‘Sami is a poster child for everything that is wrong about Guantanamo Bay: No charges, no trial, constantly shifting allegations, brutal treatment, no visits with family, not even a phone call home … Sami was never alleged to have hurt a soul, and was never proven to have committed any crimes. Yet, he had fewer rights than convicted mass murderers or rapists. What has happened to American justice?’ ”

The AP story added that “Al-Haj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the U.S did not make public its full allegations against him. But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, U.S. officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Haj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. The U.S. claimed he also traveled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that U.S. authorities say funded militant groups. The officials said during this period that he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States. Officials did not provide details”.

AP also said that “The military alleged he was a courier for a militant Muslim organization, an allegation his lawyers denied. Al-Haj said he believed he was arrested because of U.S. hostility toward Al-Jazeera and because the media was reporting on U.S. rights violations in Afghanistan”.

The AP story can be read in full here .