The other Guantanamo

A US captain on a tour of Bagram prison in 2009.
A US captain on a tour of Bagram prison in 2009.

At Bagram prison in Afghanistan, prisoners are kept without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer. On 3 September, I wrote a blog for the New Statesman, The other Guantanamo, asking what will happen to this prison after the US pull-out next year. The main sticking point is the fact that there are more than 60 foreign nationals being held at the prison, who are stuck in a legal black hole, subject to lengthy repatriation negotiations and bureaucratic delays.

I also wrote a feature for US-based website Alternet, published 14 September, looking at the prison – and the plight of the prisoners there – in more detail. Here’s an excerpt:

Ayaz was 15 when he traveled to Afghanistan, from his native Pakistan, to take a job in a restaurant. He had been there a few weeks when American soldiers entered, asked for him by name, and took him away. That was in 2004. It was the start of a six-year nightmare. Ayaz was held first at a military base, and then at the notorious Bagram prison. To this day, he does not understand why he was detained, but believes a co-worker falsely accused him of being a terrorist in exchange for a reward.

During his imprisonment, he had little access to justice. “They said that I was a suicide bomber and that I want to bomb the USA,” he said. “I had a representative who was not a lawyer. He would often make my case worse.” In 2011, Ayaz was repatriated to Pakistan. He claims he had been cleared two years earlier, after US officials determined that he was not a combatant and there were no grounds to hold him.

I wrote the piece with the help of Justice Project Pakistan, a not-for-profit organisation which is representing some of the Pakistani nationals held at Bagram.


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