We're Live Bangla Friday, March 31, 2023

Who is one of the two Afghans released from Guantánamo Bay?

The US Alleged That Gul, Also Known As Haroon Al-Afghani, “served As A Link Between Senior Al Qaeda Members And Other Anti-Coalition Fighters”.


Born in 1981 in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, Assadullah Haroon Gul, was held without charge in the United States’ notorious Guantanamo Bay prison for 15 years.

The US alleged that Gul, also known as Haroon al-Afghani, “served as a link between senior Al Qaeda members and other anti-Coalition fighters”. 

He was also accused of working as a courier for Al Qaeda.

Arrested by Afghan security forces on 4 February 2007 and transferred to Bagram on 5 May 2007, Gul was never charged with any war crimes during his years in prison where he languished without a lawyer.

Last October, a US court ruled that Gul was being held unlawfully, paving the way for his transfer out of Guantanamo.

On Thursday, a US Air Force plane departed from Guantanamo Bay and handed Gul to Qatar, a key player in the Afghan peace accord between the Taliban and the US. 

He was then handed over to Taliban representatives in Doha on Friday.

When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and began hunting for members of Al Qaeda, it promised large cash rewards for turning people in. 

During that time, Gul was arrested in the Jalalabad city of Nangarhar province and was transferred to prison by the CIA.

The US opened the Guantánamo Bay under former president George W. Bush in 2002 after the US invasion of Afghanistan to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is blamed for the 9/11 attacks. 

The prison was to interrogate those suspected of having links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

The detention centre became notorious for torturing and abusing inmates. In several instances, inmates were held in cages and subjected to illegal interrogation techniques, according to rights groups and detainees.

In an interview with the Afghan local news station TOLONews, Gul said he was tortured several times during his 15 years at the prison and that his health has suffered severely during his imprisonment.

“I had no legal rights, and I did not have a lawyer for ten years,” he said.

Gul, an economics graduate from Hayatabad Science University in Peshawar, Pakistan, is married and has a daughter, born after he was captured.

His brother and mother live in neighbouring Pakistan, which hosts around 3 million Afghan refugees.

“Asad [Asadullah Haroon Gul] missed his daughter's entire childhood. He will never get back what has been taken from him,” Reprieve, an independent group that provided legal representation to Gul in the federal court, said in a Tweet.

During his imprisonment, Gul has suffered severe physical and psychological torture, including being beaten, hung by his wrists, deprived of food and water, and prevented from praying, the advocacy group said.

“His family feared him dead for many years and for the first 9 years of his captivity, he did not have access to a lawyer despite repeated attempts to obtain legal representation.”

Also subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold temperatures and solitary confinement, Gul asks why he was punished. 

“My identity, dignity and reputation is ruined, and I don’t know what my fault was,” he said. 

The remaining Afghan at Guantanamo Bay is Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani who has now spent 15 years at prison without charge. In his mid-fifties, Rahim is reportedly suffering from numerous ailments as a result of his torture. 

A medical examination has found several nodules on his liver, kidney, lung and rib, which could be indicative of cancer, according to a specialist.