The Supreme Court ruled last week that prisoners in Guantánamo Bay have a right to challenge their imprisonment in a civilian court. Having been kidnapped, tortured, raped, and driven to try suicide, prisoner Jumah al-Dossary was one of the lucky ones.
From the book My Guantánamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me by Mahvish Khan.
Jumah al-Dossary needed to take a quick bathroom break during a meeting with his lawyer. The guards came and unshackled the Bahraini detainee from the floor and led him to a nearby cell with a toilet. His lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, also stepped out of the Camp Echo meeting room and waited outside, watching the pouring rain, for al-Dossary to call out to the guards that he was finished.
Several minutes later there was still no sound from the prisoner. Colangelo-Bryan began to feel anxious, wondering what was taking so long.
A guard keeps watch over the Camp Delta detention facility at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, Tuesday, June 13, 2006. Photo by Todd Sumlin AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer
He walked over to the cell, pulled the door open and poked his head in. Before he could call out his client’s name, he saw a puddle of blood on the floor. He threw the door open and rushed in to find al-Dossary hanging from the steel mesh wall of the cage, his face engorged, a noose around his neck. His tongue lolled from his mouth and his eyes were rolled back into his head. Before hanging himself, al-Dossary had slashed his arm.
Colangelo-Bryan rushed over to the cage.
“Jumah!” he shouted, but got no response.
“Jumah!” he shouted again. Panicking, Colangelo-Bryan yelled for help. Guards rushed in and unlocked the cage. They cut the noose, laid al-Dossary on the floor and ordered the attorney out of the room.
Later that night, Colangelo-Bryan was relieved to learn that his client was in stable condition. He had been revived and given treatment for his injuries, including 14 stitches in his arm.
It was the 32-year-old’s eighth suicide attempt since he’d been brought to Guantánamo in February 2002. But al-Dossary told his lawyer that it wouldn’t be his last: as soon as he got the chance, he’d try to end his “worthless life” again. Colangelo-Bryan immediately filed a motion, claiming physical and religious abuse as well as sexual humiliation and vicious interrogations. He asked that the military be ordered to improve al-Dossary’s conditions: that he be given books other than the Qu’ran, more recreation time and that he be allowed to see a home video of his family, and that the lights be turned off at night so that he could sleep. Otherwise, he faced “irreparable injury,” his lawyer told the D.C. Federal District Court.
The court never ruled on this motion.
After witnessing his client’s grisly suicide attempt, Colangelo-Bryan returned to work in the New York offices of Dorsey & Whitney LLP. Once it was cleared by DOD, he received a chilling reminder of what he’d seen in Guantánamo Bay: the sealed suicide note al-Dossary had given him before his bathroom break. It read:
- October 2005
In fact, I don’t know how to begin, or where to begin… I feel very sorry for forcing you to see … a human being who suffered too much … dying before your eyes. There was no alternative to make our voice heard by the world from the depths of the detention centers…
I hope you will always remember that you met and sat with a “human being” called “Jumah” who suffered too much and was abused in his belief, his self, in his dignity and also in his humanity. He was imprisoned, tortured and deprived of his homeland, his family and his young daughter… Remember that there are hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba—they are in the same situation of suffering and misfortune. They were captured, tortured and detained with no offense or reason. Their lives might end like mine.
When you remember me in my last gasps of life before dying, while my soul is leaving my body to rise to its creator, remember that the world let us down and let our case down. Remember that our governments let us down. Remember the unreasonable delay of the courts in looking into our case and to side with the victims of injustice. If there were judges who had been fair, I wouldn’t have been wrapped in death shrouds now and my family—my father, my mother, my brothers, sisters and my little daughter—would not have to lose [me] but what else can I do?
Take some of my blood … take pieces of my death shrouds … take some of my remains … take pictures of my dead body when I am placed in my grave. Send it to the world, to the judges … the people with a live conscience … to the people with principles and values…
At this moment, I see death looming in front of me while I write this letter … Death has a bad odor that cannot be smelled except by those who are going through its agony.
Farewell … I thank you for everything you have done for me, but I have a final request. … Show the world the letters I gave you, let the world read them. Let the world know the agonies of the detainees in Cuba. …
Prisoner of Deprivation
Jumah Abdel Latif al-Dossary
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
The Department of Defense later confirmed that al-Dossary made another attempt to kill himself. “The purpose of Guantánamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed,” he told his attorney.
One of the soldiers was sexually assaulting him. One of the soldiers was video taping.
All al-Dossary’s statements and most of the facts in this essay are based on his unclassified writings and his lawyer’s unclassified notes. Despite the humiliation he underwent, al-Dossary decided to speak out about his torture in order to shed light on what was happening in the prison. His lawyer had written to him about the importance of disclosing his name to the media and of convincing other prisoners to do the same.
“I heard that some American officials deny that human rights violations are occurring in Cuba and deny that there are sexual assaults on detainees and that some journalists are also skewing the facts,” he wrote.
Al-Dossary’s detailed account of his captivity is one of the strongest claims of prisoner abuse at the hands of the U.S. military.
“How will I write about these horrors, and must I swallow the bitter lump that forms in my throat when I remember them?” al-Dossary wrote. ”The revolting torture and those vile attacks … whenever I look back on them, I wonder how my soft heart could bear them, how my body could bear the pain of the torture and how my mind could bear all that stress.”
Many prisoners shied away from speaking about the indignities they’d suffered, who preferred not to relive the shame. Military officials, however, maintain that Guantánamo detainees are masters of deceit, carefully following al-Qaeda training manual instructions on how to dupe Westerners.
“These detainees are trained to lie, they’re trained to say they were tortured, and the minute we release them or the minute they get a lawyer, very frequently they’ll go out and they will announce that they’ve been tortured,” then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview with Fox News in June 2005.
Statements like that angered al-Dossary’s lawyer, who watched his client crumble under years of methodical torture.
“So are the FBI agents and military personnel who have described inhumane treatment of detainees also taking a page out of the Al Qaeda playbook,” asked Colangelo-Bryan, “or are they just describing what they’ve seen?”
Some detainees clearly lied. One Afghan told us on a first meeting that he was illiterate. But when we saw him a few months later, he was reading and writing flawlessly. It was only after perhaps noticing the odd look on my face that he suddenly remembered his lack of education and began to stammer and sound out words like a kindergartner.
Nonetheless, the evidence of torture was extensive. Countless detainees, aid workers and even U.S. soldiers repeatedly described the use of the same type of torture, sexual humiliation and religious degradation. Al-Dossary insisted that his story was not contrived in “a flight of fancy or a moment of madness,” but was based on “established facts and events,” witnessed by other prisoners, the Red Cross, interpreters and U.S. soldiers, who he said filmed it all. So he sat in solitary confinement and wrote a memoir of what he presumed would be his final years.
In his written account, al-Dossary described how his journey to Guantánamo began with a long walk to the Pakistani border in December 2001, to flee the bombs dropping on Afghanistan. He told the Pakistani soldiers at the border that he needed to go to the Bahraini Embassy. They seemed helpful and even welcoming, but instead of the embassy, they took him to a filthy Pakistani jail packed with Arabs and other foreigners, who had suddenly become valuable war commodities. There were no bathrooms and no mattresses, only men crammed shoulder to shoulder, reeking of unwashed bodies and fear.
To protect the prisoners from the winter cold, the Pakistanis doled out vermin-infested blankets. All the food the men received was a hunk of hard bread, which quickly led to malnutrition. The Pakistanis treated him badly, al-Dossary wrote, but the real suffering started when he was blindfolded and delivered to the Americans [probably for a bounty of up to $25,000].
In a long letter to his lawyer, he described how the Pakistanis took him to an airport and handed him over to U.S. soldiers. When the Pakistanis left, a female interpreter came close and told him in Arabic that the soldiers were going to get him ready for the flight to the U.S. military base in Kandahar. He was to keep quiet and obey the commands he was given. Moments later, someone seized him roughly and threw him down on the pavement. The Americans searched his body carefully and violently, then dragged him onto a windowless military cargo plane and bound him with chains to the cabin floor. They ripped off his blindfold, and before they covered his head with a sack, he glimpsed about 30 other prisoners on board.
When all the men were tied down, the cabin door was sealed and the soldiers began hurling insults and swearing at the prisoners. They cursed “our families and our honor,” he wrote to his attorney.
Through the sack, al-Dossary caught quick glimpses of bright light as some of the soldiers apparently took souvenir photographs.
When they tired of shouting obscenities, al-Dossary wrote, the soldiers wove through the rows of chained, hooded men, kicking and punching as they went. One stopped in front of al-Dossary to deliver a few firm kicks to his stomach. The Bahraini howled in pain. He’d had a stomach operation in the past and hoped that his captors would show mercy, but his cries were answered with more blows. He broke out in a sweat and felt nauseous as his mouth filled with a bitter dark liquid and he began to throw up blood.
“The tragic event on the plane was only the beginning of the horrors awaiting me,” he wrote.
At the U.S. base in Kandahar, the men were pulled off the plane and forced to lie face-down on the icy winter tarmac as soldiers trampled on them, hit them with their rifle butts, yelled obscenities and beat them. Then the soldiers ordered the prisoners to get up and tied them together with wire, leaving about six feet between each man. “Run!” they shouted.
But many of the men were injured and exhausted, and when they tried to run, some simply couldn’t keep up and fell to their knees. The soldiers kicked and punched them and ordered them to get back up. Al-Dossary still wore the shackles the Pakistanis had put on his ankles, which caused him to stumble repeatedly. Every time he fell to the ground, he felt a soldier’s boot against his body. One time, he passed out, then regained consciousness to find his head under a soldier’s boot. He was beaten unconscious again. The second time, he came around to a hot wet sensation on his head and back. Confused, he turned his throbbing head to see the same soldier towering over him, urinating on him.
“He was roaring with laughter,” he wrote.
Then the soldier grabbed a fistful of al-Dossary’s hair and kicked his face until his lip split. According to al-Dossary, the soldiers always focused on sensitive spots such as the eyes, nose and genitals. During the beatings, he said, the soldiers insulted members of his family and called him a terrorist over and over.
Al-Dossary spent two weeks at Kandahar, where he claimed that soldiers threatened to kill him and made him walk barefoot over barbed wire or shards of glass. They broke his nose. He was forced to raise his arms backward so high that he was afraid they would pop out of their shoulder sockets. After one especially intense beating, he wrote, he and the others were forced to strip—although much of their clothing had already been torn from their bodies.
“My blood was everywhere, my face was swollen … I had cuts all over my body,” he recalled in his letter.
The soldiers began to photograph and film the naked, battered prisoners. Al-Dossary would get to see these photographs much later during an interrogation at Guantánamo.
Religious degradation was as much a part of the program as physical abuse. Al-Dossary insisted that soldiers frequently cursed Allah and the Prophet Mohammad. When Red Cross representatives brought the prisoners Qu’rans, the holy books were thrown on the floor during interrogations and sometimes into the plastic buckets that prisoners relieved themselves into. Some soldiers used the Qu’ran as a football, tossing it around in front of the Muslim prisoners. Others tore out pages to clean off their boots.
She stained her hands with her menstrual blood and wiped my face and beard with it. Then she got up, cleaned herself, put her clothes back on and left the room.
Meanwhile, the physical abuse became more inventive. One day, al-Dossary had hot liquid poured on his head; another time he was given electric shocks with a small device that he described as looking like a mobile phone. Individual hairs were pulled out of his beard and he was made to stand in stress positions for hours at a time and not allowed to sleep. Once, he said, a U.S. soldier put out his cigarette butt on his bare foot.
“Why are you treating me like this?!” al-Dossary cried out. The soldier responded a few moments later by stubbing another cigarette out on his wrist. When he complained to a military physician, some soldiers decided to teach him a lesson. They blindfolded him and took him to another part of the camp. What he witnessed, he wrote, still haunted him.
“I heard an Afghan prisoner scream. He was crying and saying, ‘Oh Allah, Oh God,’“ al-Dossary wrote. That was all he could understand of the man’s screams. He was led toward the screaming, which grew louder and louder, and then his blindfold was pulled off.
“I saw an Afghan brother in his fifties. He had a lot of white hair in his beard and he was tied to the ground. Soldiers were holding on to his shackles and he was naked lying on his stomach. One of the soldiers was sexually assaulting him. One of the soldiers was video taping,” he wrote.
Al-Dossary was told that he would face the same fate as that “Afghan terrorist” if he dared to speak out again.
The first time I heard about sexual assault or rape, I had a hard time believing that U.S. soldiers could be capable of such brutality. Historically, sexual degradation has been considered an effective way to demoralize prisoners and an entire community. We caught a small glimpse of sexual degradation at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison, where young men and women in uniform posed and smiled for pictures next to naked and humiliated men on leashes, or stacked naked in a pile, or forced to masturbate for a camera while a female U.S. guard gave a thumbs-up and pointed at the prisoner’s crotch.
Abu Ghraib caused such a stir when a few of the photos were leaked to the media that the military was forced to investigate. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba was assigned to find out what happened and spent most of February 2004 in Iraq with his team, investigating. In an interview with veteran correspondent Seymour Hersh of _The New Yorker_, Taguba said that he was appalled at what he uncovered. He revealed that the Pentagon forced him to retire in January 2007 as a result of his forceful inquiry into the scandal. Taguba also told _The New Yorker_ that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division had kept more pictures—about 100 —and a video from the public. Americans haven’t seen a fraction of what happened at the Iraqi prison, and although only low-level soldiers were prosecuted in that case, Taguba said he believed that the orders for the actions could only have come from above.
Taguba told _The New Yorker_ that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The general also said that an Iraqi father and son were sexually humiliated together and that there were images of a female Iraqi prisoner forced to bare her breasts before U.S. soldiers. The general told the magazine that there were images of male prisoners stripped naked, with female guards pointing at their penises; of Iraqi women forced to expose their genitals to the guards; of prisoners forced to perform “indecent acts” upon one another; and of guards physically assaulting prisoners by beating them and dragging them around on chains. There were also reports of an Army physician who indicated that an anal fissure on a prisoner was consistent with the sodomy the prisoners alleged.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs … can become agents in a terrible destructive process…
Many similar reports never reached the U.S. media. Lal Gul, Director of AHRO (Afghan Human Rights Organization) in Kabul, said that U.S. soldiers pervasively raped men and women—regardless of age. Chicago-based sociologist Daud Miraki told me that his field workers attested to multiple cases of rape by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, too. Miraki has recorded a case of a young woman in Sarobi whose husband was away from home when U.S. soldiers came to search the house and took her to the military base “for questioning.” Neighbors informed her husband, and when he went to the base to pick her up, she reportedly told him that she had been gang-raped. Her husband told Miraki that he could no longer accept her as a wife. She went to stay with her parents and committed suicide days later. Some speculate that many rapes in Afghanistan have gone unreported because of the extreme cultural taboo associated with it.
Perhaps it’s difficult for soldiers to refuse to obey orders, especially when they’re told all prisoners are the enemy. Professor Stanley Milgram, author of the the famous experiment which measured the willingness of participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that went against their personal conscience, concluded that “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs … can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”
It’s easier to abuse when there’s a presumption of guilt, an assumption that the prisoners are terrorists. Was this what provoked the torture and sexual humiliation that led Jumah al-Dossary down the path to self-destruction?
“I spend many hours trying to convince Jumah that he shouldn’t kill himself,” his lawyer Colangelo-Bryan told me. “I tell him that he’ll go home one day and be with his family again. He asks when that will happen and, of course, I have no answer. He reminds me that he has lived for years alone in cell … and has been told by the military that he will live like that forever. All he can see is darkness. For me, his words bring on a feeling of crippling powerlessness.”
The next stages of al-Dossary’s nightmare began when a soldier cut off all his clothes with a pair of scissors and his head and face were shaved clean. Naked, he was led into a large tent holding a group of men just like him, all bald, naked and hairless. Soldiers instructed them to don orange prison jumpsuits, and they were fitted with sound-blocking ear muffs and blackened goggles. It was a bewildering experience to be deprived of basic sensory input. The men were then left in the room for hours, from noon until nightfall, to wear them down physically and mentally for the long flight west.
“We sat without food or drink, [we were] unable to relieve ourselves or pray,” al-Dossary reported. But the men did pray, trying their best to make the motions. Very late that night, they were led onto a plane and tied by the legs to the cabin floor or to the seats. Al-Dossary’s forehead and nose were injured by the tight goggles and his hands and legs swelled from the pressure of the shackles.
“Then the plane took off and flew for many hours, I do not know how many,” he wrote. “[It] landed in a country where the weather was hot.”
They were moved to another plane and flew further west.
When they landed in Guantánamo Bay, the men were unloaded onto a military bus.
“You are at an American base. You must not speak or move. You must keep your heads down,” a translator shouted in Arabic, warning that prisoners who moved would be beaten.
“When it was my turn to get off the bus, I could not move because I was extremely stressed and exhausted,” al-Dossary wrote. “They told to me get up right now and shouted at me. When I wanted to tell them that I could not move, they started hitting me and told me again that I was not allowed to talk.” Two soldiers picked him up and threw him out of the bus.
The men were taken to Camp X-Ray and left there until the following night, when they were led one by one into a large tent to be photographed and fingerprinted. Next, they were taken to a “cement building” to take a shower.
“They stripped me of my clothes and gave me soap but did not take the goggles off my eyes,” al-Dossary wrote. Though the water was very cold, he was relieved to be bathing. But just as he was lathering his hair, he was ordered out of the shower.
“They were well aware that I had not bathed in over a month and a half,” he wrote.
The years of abuse in Guantánamo broke him, al-Dossary wrote.
He has been interrogated at gunpoint several hundred times. Soldiers have threatened him with rape and threatened to harm his family in the Middle East. He was told that his young daughter Nura would be kidnapped and that if he was sent home, he would be murdered by U.S. spies in the Middle East. He was also threatened with being sent to a jail in the United States.
“There are American prisoners waiting for people like [you],” interrogators told him.
According to his accounts, he was terrorized by growling police dogs, awakened in the night for questioning, forced to spend long cold nights on cement floors. One day, to punish him, he said, the guards poured a “very strong detergent” all around him in the interrogation room.
“I almost suffocated,” he wrote.
He described loud music, bright light being shone directly in his face, and being forced to stay in a “very, very cold room” for endless hours. Sometime he was denied food and water, not allowed to use the bathroom or to wash before prayers. He said that all the interrogation rooms had a metal ring embedded in the floor. The guards tied his hands and feet to this ring, forcing him to lie in a fetal position.
The worst indignity he suffered was very late one Saturday night, he was marched into an interrogation room, shackled to the ring in the floor, and left alone for an extended period. All at once, the door was thrown open, and four soldiers with masks over their faces came in with a female interrogator. One of the soldiers operated a video camera.
“Now we want you to confess that you are with Al Qaeda or that you have some connection to the attacks in America,” the female interrogator told him. “Otherwise tonight we will show you something that you will never forget for the rest of your life.”
They were right about his never forgetting. Realizing that something bad was going to happen to him, he pleaded that he’d had nothing to do with 9/11.
“I started screaming and shouting so that perhaps one of the brothers would hear my screams … [but] the rooms were soundproof,” he wrote.
The female interrogator laughed and told him that no one would hear his calls. “It’s Saturday, it’s the weekend, it’s late at night and there are no officials around,” she said.
After a final threat, she issued a command to the soldiers.
There are some soldiers who have humanity, irrespective of their race, gender or faith.
They “came and took me off the chair,” al-Dossary wrote. “My feet were tied to that ring as I mentioned before. They then laid me out on my back and put the extra shackles on top of my hand shackles and pulled me by them forcefully and brutally in the opposite direction, towards my feet, while I was lying on my back.”
They cut his clothes off and threw the shreds into a corner. He couldn’t have expected what happened next. The woman began to take her clothes off as the soldiers with the camera continued to film.
“When she was in her underwear, she stood on top of me,” al-Dossary wrote. “She took off her underpants, she was wearing a sanitary towel, and drops of her menstrual blood fell on me and then she assaulted me. I tried to fight her off but the soldiers held me down with the chains forcefully and ruthlessly so that they almost cut my hands. I spat at her on her face; she put her hand on her dirty menstrual blood that had fallen on my body and wiped it on my chest. She stained her hands with her menstrual blood and wiped my face and beard with it. Then she got up, cleaned herself, put her clothes back on and left the room.”
The soldiers proceeded to shackle his hands and feet together to the floor. They picked up his clothes and left him—tied up, naked and smeared with menstrual blood.
Several hours later, some soldiers came back into the room; he didn’t know whether they were the same ones as before, but they acted as if nothing had happened. They unshackled him and led him to a bathroom where he was permitted to wash and was handed new clothes. He was taken back to the camp just before dawn prayer.
“I was in a hysterical state,” al-Dossary wrote. “I almost went mad because of what had happened, how it had happened and why it had happened.”
“If these facts did not need to be documented for the whole world to know what happens in American detention camps, then I would not write this. I was shaken to the core; my body and my mind were shaken.”
Al-Dossary’s testimony about this incident was corroborated by one of the Guantánamo Arabic linguists, Sgt. Erik Saar, who included an account of it in his book, _Behind the Wire_. While it’s unclear whether Saar was referring to al-Dossary, his account supports the notion that sexual humiliation of this kind occurred.
Al-Dossary said that, strangely, the interrogators who took part in sexual assaults were often never seen again afterward, “almost as if they were specialists in these types of crimes and assaults.”
Al Dossary spent prolonged periods in solitary confinement, suffering the kind of social and sensory deprivation that, according to the _American Journal of Psychiatry_, often leads to mental breakdown. Other effects of extreme isolation include severe chronic headaches, developmental regression and an inability to control urges, as well as an inability to concentrate; to control anger, rage, primitive drives and instincts; to plan beyond the moment; to anticipate logical consequences of one’s behavior.
In January 2004, al-Dossary was moved to isolation in “India Block,” where he deteriorated quickly. He was often left naked in the metal cell under the cold air conditioning vents directly above his metal bed, without even a pillow, a blanket or a plastic mat to sleep on. To avoid the chill from the air conditioning, he cowered near the toilet. For weeks, he had neither toilet paper nor water to wash with, so he cleaned himself with the toilet water.
Letters from his family were confiscated and destroyed.
“I became like a house of cards that always falls down; whatever side you try to build it from, it will still fall down. I almost collapsed completely,” he wrote. “Oh, those days and nights. I felt that time had ended at that time and did not want to move forward. I felt that the whole world with its mountains and all its gravity was bearing down on my chest. I had no helper and protector except Allah. I was at the end of my tether, all the doors had closed on me and I had lost hope in everything except Allah … In this state of darkness, injustice and oppression, Allah was with me. He blessed me, in the severity of all this psychological stress in this very depressing cell, by helping me to memorize the whole Qu’ran, in spite of the harshness of my circumstances, what I was suffering and the intensity of this disgraceful psychological stress. This was Allah’s mercy on me.“
On May 25, 2004, al-Dossary was moved to the newly opened Camp 5, which consisted entirely of solitary cells where the air-conditioning was kept at frigid temperatures and enormous fans mimic the sound of an airplane engine to prevent prisoners from screaming to each other through the concrete walls.
He met with attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan in March 2005, and told him everything he had been through. When the lawyer left, al-Dossary was threatened by an angry soldier. “It’s best that you forget everything that’s happened to you and don’t mention it again to anyone if you want to stay safe,” the soldier told him, he later wrote. After that, al-Dossary said, he was given something peculiar-tasting to eat and began to experience dizziness, headaches, vomiting and fainting. His left arm went numb.
But he was careful to emphasize that not all U.S. soldiers treated him badly. Once, he wrote, a black soldier brought him cookies and hot chocolate. Another young soldier’s eyes welled with tears after he heard what al-Dossary had endured.
“There are some soldiers who have humanity, irrespective of their race, gender or faith,” al-Dossary wrote.
Though he maintains that he has no terrorism connections and doesn’t hate the United States, the FBI and the Pentagon say there was no mistake in his case and that al-Dossary went to an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1989, something that Colangelo-Bryan disputes.
“Jumah did go to Afghanistan for a long weekend on a Saudi government-sponsored trip after the Soviets had left,” he told me. “The Saudis were sending lots of people there to see Afghanistan after the Soviets had been driven out with support of the Saudis and the United States.”
The Pentagon also said that he was “present at Tora Bora,” but it didn’t say when he was there, why this was a crime, what he supposedly did there or who he was with. Al-Dossary maintained that he had never been to Tora Bora in his life.
Stories circulating on the Internet suggested that al-Dossary had come to the United States on a tourist visa in 2001 and delivered a heated political speech at a mosque in Lackawanna, New York, just outside Buffalo. But Colangelo-Bryan said that was not a basis for holding his client.
“Jumah did give a sermon at a mosque there where he talked about injustice in the world,” the laywer said. “He did not urge any violence against the U.S. or any other country or person, and there have been no allegations that he did.” The United States did not allege that al-Dossary had engaged in any recruiting at Lackawanna or elsewhere.
The Defense Department detained him year after year, its official position being that he was right where he belongs: in a 7-by-8-foot cage.
That’s what the military said about everyone I met in Guantánamo.
Last July, according to The Gulf Daily News, al-Dossary was one of sixteen men repatriated to Saudi Arabia.
From the book My Guantánamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me by Mahvish Khan. Excerpted by arrangement with Public Affairs (www.publicaffairsbooks.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2008.