Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj

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Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj is a Sudanese journalist who was held in Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[1] He was a photographer for the Al Jazeera news agency. He was released in 2008. [2]

He was repatriated to Sudan on May 1st, 2008, together with two other Sudanese men, Walid Mohammad Haj Mohammad Ali and Amir Yakoub Mohammed Al Amir Mahmoud, a Moroccan man named Saïd Boujaâdia, and five Afghan captives were repatriated to the custody of their home countries on May 1, 2008.[3]

Background

Sami Al Hajj attracted attention because he was described as being the sole journalist to be held in Guantanamo.[4]

Conditions of detention

British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith represents Al Hajj, and was able to visit him in 2005.[5] According to Smith Al Hajj reported:

  • He has been beaten. Smith said he had a huge scar on his face.
  • Al Hajj witnessed guards flushing a Qur'an down a toilet.
  • Al Hajj witnessed guards defacing a Qur'an with swear words.

Sami Al Hajj is a cancer survivor and[6] needed He required medication to keep his cancer in remission. Amnesty International reported that he had been taking daily medication, since 1998, to keep his cancer in remission, and that camp authorities did not provide him with this medication. According to Reporters without Borders, his attorney said that Al Hajj has throat cancer, and that the camp authorities are withholding medical treatment.[7]

Sami Al Hajj was on a hunger strike for the last sixteen months he was held in Guantanamo, and was force-fed.

Charges

Summary of Evidence memo

A Summary of Evidence memo apparently drafted on October 22, 2004, for Sami Al Hajj's Combatant Status Review Tribunal was released to the public in September 2007.[8] The memo listed the following allegations against him:

The detainee is associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban:associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban:

  1. During the period 1996-2001, the detainee traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Balkans, and the former USSR, arriving in Afghanistan in October 2001.
  2. The detainee admitted to transporting large amounts of cash from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) to Azerbaijan on multiple occasions from 1996-2000.
  3. From 1997 through 2000, the detainee was responsible for financial and material aid for Chechen armed groups and foreign mercenaries operating in the Northern Caucasus.
  4. The detainee provided assistance, obtaining travel/immigration documents, for an Iraqi businessman moving to the U.A.E.
  5. The above Iraqi businessman is reportedly close to Osama bin Laden.
  6. Prior to 11 September 2001, the detainee arranged for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya.
  7. Since 2000, the detainee has engaged in distributing terrorist propaganda over the internet.
  8. While attempting to re-enter Afghanistan in December 2001, the detainee was apprehended by Pakistani authorities for inconsistencies with his travel documents.

First annual Administrative Review Board hearing

A Summary of Evidence memo was prepared for his first annual Administrative Review Board.[9] The memo listed factors for and against his continued detention.

Primary factors favoring continued detention

Commitment

  1. The detainee worked as an executive secretary for Abdul Al-Latif Al-Imran, general manager for the Union Beverage Company (UBC).
  2. The Union Beverage Company has been associated with Bosnian/Chechen mujahideen.
  3. The detainee traveled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to courier money to the Al-Haramayn non-governmental organization (NGO) on behalf of his boss, Abd Al-Latif Omran.
  4. Al-Haramayn has been designated under Executive Order 13224 as an organization that has provided support to terrorist organizations.
  5. During the winter of 1997, the detainee delivered $7,000 USD to Al-Haramayn.
  6. During the winter of 1998, the detainee delivered $13,000 USD to Al-Haramayn.
  7. During the summer of 1999, the detainee visited Al-Haramayn's summer camp, and delivered $13,000 USD to Al-Haramayn.
  8. During November 1999, the detainee delivered $12,000 USD to Munir Al-Barguoni for a new factory in Azerbaijan; he also delivered $100,000 USD to Jamal, the Director of Al-Haramayn.
  9. The detainee was detained in Azerbaijan for the transport of $220,000 USD. The money was destined for Chechen rebels and not for humanitarian support as the detainee was told.
  10. After serving as the Al-Haramayn Director in Baku, Azerbaijan from 1997 to January 2000, Jiman Mohammed Alawi Al Muraai, aka Abu Wafa, took a job operating the Wafa offices in Karachi, Pakistan.
  11. Al Wafa has been designated under Executive Order 13224 as an organization that has provided support to terrorist organizations.
  12. While working at the Union Beverage Company, the detainee met Mamdouh Mahmoud Salem.
  13. Mamdouh Mahmoud Salem Abu Hajir was arrested in Germany in September 1998 and extradited to the United States. He was a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant and Bin Laden's deputy in Sudan.
  14. The detainee founded a company on 20 May 1999 in Azerbaijan named “SAMICO Services.”
  15. SAMICO documents were found during a raid of locations occupied by suspected extremists affiliated with Muhammad Rabi'a Abdul Halim Sha'ib (an Egyptian extremist).
  16. To register a company in Azerbaijan, authorities required that a registree have a registered business in another country.
  17. Because the detainee did not have a registered company elsewhere, he used falsified documents to register his company. According to the detainee, the falsified documents showed him as a co-owner of Rumat International.
  18. According to a Foreign Government Service, the detainee and Mamduh Muhammad Salim Ahmad, aka Abu Mu’izz, are both affiliated with Rumat International. Ahmed was subsequently arrested on suspicion of participating in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
  19. While in Azerbaijan, the detainee came into contact with Ashraf, who ran the juice distribution business for the Union Beverage Company in Azerbaijan.
  20. Between 1994-1998, Ashraf Abdulrahim Ayub worked for the Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), a non-governmental organization.
  21. The Revival of Islamic Heritage Society has been identified under Executive Order 13224 as a terrorist affiliated organization.
  22. As of late March 2003, a foreign government was investigating Ashraf for possible ties to terrorism.
  23. On 4 January 2000, the detainee attempted to reenter Azerbaijan, but was detained and then deported from the country. The deportation was due to his alleged activities supporting Chechen rebels.

b. Other Relevant Data

  1. In March or April 2000, the detainee left the Union Beverage Company and went to work for Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.
  2. The detainee was hired to go to Chechnya to do a story.
  3. Around this time, the detainee met with the former President of Chechnya, who was exiled in Doha, Qatar, on at least 15 occasions to learn about Chechnya and to solicit help in gaining access to Chechnya.
  4. Following the September 11th attack, the detainee was told by Al-Jazeera to forget Chechnya and go to Afghanistan.
  5. The detainee interviewed several Taliban officials during his stay in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
  6. The detainee interviewed a man who identified himself as Abu Hafa Al Moritani, a member of al Qaeda.
  7. Abu Hafa was one of Osama bin Laden's personal advisors and a religious recruiter. He was also the leader of the Mauritanian al-Qaeda cell.
  8. The detainee was stopped in early December 2001 at the border by Pakistani security. According to Pakistan security, the passport the detainee had in his possession did not agree with Pakistani records.
  9. The detainee was detained at the Afghanistan/Pakistan border because his name appeared on a border authority watch list.

Primary factors favor release or transfer:

  1. The detainee claims never to have traveled to Great Britain (sic).
  2. The detainee denies knowing how Chechen fighters obtained their finances.
  3. Detainee has no recorded major discipline acts or violent behavior. Detainee has refused to obey guards on occasion by not following instructions. Detainee has consistently led prayer in the cell blocks and has been seen teaching English and Qur'an to other detainees.
  4. The detainee states he wants to return to his family and resume his position as a father and provider. The detainee noted he would exercise caution in future assignments with Al Jazeera. The detainee hopes to return to Doha, Qatar, with his family. He states that he harbors no ill feelings against the United States.
  5. The detainee denies any knowledge that his former boss at the Union Beverage Company, Al-Latif, was involved with any al-Qaeda operations.
  6. The detainee denies any knowledge of al-Qaeda operations in Chechnya.
  7. The detainee denies any involvement or membership in any Islamic extremist organization, to include the Muslim Brotherhood and the Council of Shura (sic).

Transcript

Al Hajj chose to participate in his Administrative Review Board hearing.[10]

Al Hajj's initial statement

  • Al Hajj first thanked the Board for meeting with him.
  • He then spoke about the pain of being separated from his wife and young child.
  • He then expressed confusion over how he came to be classified as an enemy combatant, but said he wasn’t bitter, and hoped he could convince the Board that he was not a threat and should be set free.
  • Al Hajj then condemned terrorism in all its forms and assured the Board he had never taken part in or supported any terrorists or terrorist acts. He assured the Board that, according to his understanding of Islam, terrorist acts were strictly prohibited.
  • Al Hajj said he didn’t think he should return to journalism, following his release, as it had proven too dangerous.
  • He expressed concern over his wife, he said remaining in Azerbaijan, the country of her birth would be dangerous to her.

Al Hajj's answers to questions posed at his ARB hearing

In answer to questions:

  • Al Hajj said that mail to and from his wife was extremely intermittent. That during one period he went a full year without any word from her. Al Hajj's hearing was in late August 2005. He said his last letter from his wife was in May 2005. He said he was unaware of her receiving any financial support.
  • Al Hajj indicated that, on the advice of his lawyer, he was going to decline answering questions about his relationship to Al Haramayn, Abu Wafa, Mamdouh Mahmoud Saleem, SAMICO Services, his past travels. He did indicate that the Union Beverage Company was a large company, with operations around the World.
  • When Al Hajj was asked: if he had said that a true interpretation of Islam would not condone violence against innocent people, like the 9/11 attack, he answered in the affirmative.
  • When Al Hajj was asked why his foot was in a cast, he said simply he fell down.
  • The Presiding Officer congratulated Al Hajj for being designated one of the compliant detainees who were allowed to wear white uniforms. He then asked Al Hajj what he would like to do if he were released. Al Hajj replied he would like to live in Sudan, where he would work in his family's business.
  • The Board Members seemed understanding about Al Hajj following his lawyer's advice not to answer questions. However, they also proposed that he would feel disappointed if he faced continued detention because of his declining to answer.

Second annual Administrative Review Board hearing

A Summary of Evidence memo was prepared for his second annual Administrative Review Board on 4 September 2006.[11]

Primary factors favoring continued detention:

Commitment

  1. The detainee stated he applied for a visa to come to the United States through the visa lottery program in 1993, 1996 and 1998. The detainee wanted to come to the United States to work in journalism. Once the detainee was hired by Al Jazeera, the detainee stopped his attempts to travel to the United States to pursue a career in journalism.
  2. The detainee stated that he found the job at Union Beverage Company through an advertisement in the newspaper. The detainee was hired for a three month probationary period as an executive secretary.
  3. The detainee founded a company in Azerbaijan named Samico Services. The company was registered with the Azerbaijan government on 20 May 1999 with the stated purpose of producing, stockpiling and selling goods for national consumption as well as tourism and other activities.
  4. The detainee stated that in order to register a new company, the authorities required a passport stating the registree was a businessman. The authorities also required that the registree has registered business (sic) in another country. Because the detainee did not have a business, he used another business' registration documents. The detainee additionally falsified the documents to show himself as a co-owner and show his passport to read businessman vice accountant.
  5. The detainee stated that he delivered 120,000 United States dollars to a business partner for a flour factory and 100,000 United States dollars to the director of Al Haramayn. The business partner was responsible for obtaining the proper registration for the flour factory form Azerbaijan authorities, so the 120,000 United States dollars was supposed to get the land and the machines for the factory.
  6. The detainee stated that he was arrested in Azerbaijan for the transport of 220,000 United States dollars for what he was told was a humanitarian mission which was instead destined for Chechen rebels.
  7. The detainee stated he had twenty-two 10,000 United States dollar bills carried by his wife under her belly.
  8. The detainee stated that in March or April 2000, he left the Union Beverage Company and went to work for Al Jazeera Media in Doha, Qatar.
  9. The detainee stated that he was hired at Al Jazeera because he agreed to go to Chechnya to do a story.
  10. The detainee stated that on 11 October 2001, he flew from Doha, Qatar to Quetta, Pakistan. On or about 13 October 2001, the detainee received a visa from the Afghanistan Embassy to enter their country. On or about 16 or 17 October 2001, the detainee and a co-worker went to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
  11. The detainee stated that in early December 2001, while attempting to return to Afghanistan, he was stopped at the border by Pakistani security at Chaman, Pakistan and was unable to obtain exit visas. The detainee was told that Pakistani security received a facsimile that questioned his travel documents. The detainee stated according to Pakistan security, the passport he had in his possession did not agree with the Pakistan records.

Connections/Associations

  1. The detainee stated that while he was working at Union Beverage Company, he interacted with the individual in charge of distribution of juice in Azerbaijan.
  2. In March 2003, the individual who was in charge of juice distribution in Azerbaijan was under investigation for possible ties to terrorism.
  3. The Union Beverage Company has been associated with known Bosnian and Chechen Mujahed.
  4. The detainee stated he interacted with an individual who he heard was arrested in Germany in September 1998 and subsequently extradited to the United States.
  5. The detainee stated that he stayed in Kandahar, Afghanistan for 29 days. While there, the detainee and a co-worker interviewed the Treasury Minister of the Taliban, the Minister of Electricity, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  6. The detainee stated he interviewed a man who identified himself as a member of the al-Qaeda.

Primary factors favouring release or transfer:

  1. The detainee denied any involvement or membership in any Islamic extremist organization, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Council of Shura. The detainee denies any knowledge of al-Qaeda operations in Chechnya. The detainee denies any knowledge that his former boss at the Union Beverage Company was involved with any al-Qaeda operations.
  2. The detainee stated that he had no spiritual or financial bond with his employer. The detainee added that he thought of his job with Union Beverage as being a simple, non-significant position.
  3. The detainee stated he wants to return to his family and resume his position as a father and provider. The detainee noted that he would exercise caution in future assignments with Al-Jazeera. The detainee hopes to return to Doha, Qatar, with his family. The detainee stated that he harbors no ill feelings against the United States.

References

  1. OARDEC (May 15, 2006). List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-09-29.
  2. US releases Sudanese cameraman, Taipei Times, Saturday, May 03, 2008, p. 6. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  3. James Oliphant. U.S. releases nine from Guantanamo, Chicago Tribune, May 2 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-02.
  4. Asim Khan, Mahfoud El Gartit. Guantanamo ordeal of Al Jazeera cameraman, Al Jazeera, Friday, October 28, 2005. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  5. Al Jazeera Guantanamo inmate 'abused', Al Jazeera, June 22, 2005. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  6. Sami al Hajj, USA/Guantánamo, Amnesty International. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  7. Call for Sami Al-Haj’s release from Guantanamo after lawyer provides new information, reporters without borders, April 19, 2006
  8. OARDEC (October 22, 2004). Summary of Evidence for Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- Al Hajj, Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed pages 85-86. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2008-05-03.
  9. OARDEC (8 July 2005). Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Al Hajj, Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed pages 17-20. United States Department of Defense.
  10. Summarized transcript (.pdf), from Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj's Administrative Review Board hearing - page 121
  11. OARDEC (4 September 2006). Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Sami Muheidine Mohamed Al Haj pages 33-35. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2007-10-12.