Detainee 546 at Guantanamo Bay is an Afghan farmer named Muhibullah. He was picked up by Afghan warlords and likely sold to the American forces in Afghanistan. Muhibullah is a Pashtu speaking farmer who is poor and illiterate. He is believed to be about 35 years old, although he is not really sure how old he is.
After being picked up by Afghan warlords he was put in prison and tortured. He was then handed over to the Americans and subsequently ended up at Guantanamo Bay. He does not allege that he was tortured in Guantanamo Bay. He was taken by the Afghan warlords because they were rounding up all Pashtu speaking people they could find to later sell to the Americans.
To give you an idea of the caliber of detainees the Bush Administration is holding at Guantanamo Bay, I will list for you the charges against him from his appearance, with the assistance of an interpreter, at the Combatant Status Review Tribunal [p. 64]:
- He is accused of being a night security guard between 1998 and 1999 for Syed Sha Aga, a Taliban commander in Kabul.
- He is accused of being a local tribal mediator for water disputes between November 2000 and February 2001, and between September 2001 and November 2001. He is not accused of being a fighter during this time.
- He is accused of attending a dinner with Kamal, a local Northern Alliance Commander under warlord Ismail Khan, the legendary Mujahideen commander.
- He is accused of acquiring an AK-47 from a man named Abdul Ghafar.
- He is accused of surrendering to the Northern Alliance in November 2001.
He was also earlier accused of being the Acting Governor of Shibarghan Province. The New York Times gives us a flavor of how his defense was handled:
At one review hearing last year, an Afghan referred to by the single name Muhibullah denied accusations that he was either the former Taliban governor of Shibarghan Province or had worked for the governor. The solution to his case should have been simple, Mr. Muhibullah suggested to the three American officers reviewing his case: They should contact the Shibarghan governor and ask him.
But the presiding Marine Corps colonel said it was really up to the detainee to try to contact the governor. Assuming that the annual review board denied his petition for freedom, noted the officer, whose name was censored from the document, Mr. Muhibullah would have a year to do so.
"How do I find the governor of Shibarghan or anybody?" the detainee asked.
"Write to them," the presiding officer responded. "We know that it is difficult but you need to do your best."
"I appreciate your suggestion, but it is not that easy," Mr. Muhibullah said.
The rest of his Tribunal appearance also followed a similar script.
Muhibullah admitted to working as a night security guard in 1998 and 1999. In his defense he stated that he was not fighting anyone and most villagers had to perform these duties for the Government. He also pointed out the obvious fact that at the time Afghanistan was not at war with the United States.
He admitted to being a local dispute mediator in the village and again pointed out the obvious fact that he was not a combatant. In fact, at the time he was picked up he was not aware who was fighting whom – he did not know if the Americans were fighting the Northern Alliance or the Taliban.
He admitted to attending a dinner at Kamal’s house. He said he had gone to Kamal’s house at his relatives’ advice to seek assistance in safely getting back to his village. Instead, Kamal took all his money and belongings and threw him in jail the next morning. He was later tortured and then finally handed over to the Americans. He pointed out the obvious fact that he is accused of having dinner with his captor and having dinner with an American ally does not seem particularly sinister.
He claimed to not know anyone named Abdul Ghafar and categorically denied receiving an AK-47 from a man he does not know. Here is the exchange between Muhibullah and the Tribunal President [p. 67]:
4. The Detainee acquired a rifle from a Mujahideen fighter, Abdul Ghafar.
Muhibullah: I do not know this person. I do not know Abdul Ghafar. I do not know if he is working with the Americans or against the American Government. I did not have any rifle or any type of weapon from this person. If the Tribunal can explain this question to me in detail – who is this person, where or when – then I might know something. But with that point, I totally disagree because I cannot remember that person.
Tribunal President: That is fine. We have no further evidence.
Finally, Muhibullah explained that he had not surrendered to anyone. Surrendering suggests that he was fighting, and no one had accused him of being a fighter. He also pointed out that he, even by the American military’s version of events, had gone to Kamal’s house and had dinner with him. Kamal took him prisoner the next morning against his wishes. He explained that that does not amount to surrender.
After hearing Muhibullah’s defense, the Tribunal decided that Muhibullah should not be released from Guantanamo Bay. Ultimately the tribunal decided that there was more reason to hold him than to release him. The factors that favored continued detention, according to the Tribunal, were [p. 82]:
His association with the Taliban:
He is alleged to have surrendered to the forces of Ismail Khan.
He was a night watchman in 1998 and 1999.
He received AK-47 and RPG training from his uncle. [Not mentioned at his hearing.]
He admitted to carrying an AK-47 while on duty as a night watchman.
I doubt if any respectable legal system in the world would find grounds to hold this man. However, the Bush Administration and its kangaroo courts at Guantanamo Bay have found cause to hold this poor man.
One has to wonder, if this is the level of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, how successful the Bush Administration has been in actually apprehending real al Qaeda terrorists.
[Cross posted at Bloggers Against Torture]