Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search
   
 
   Headlines  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
Why is My Dad Far Away in That Place Called Guantanamo Bay? Young Boy's Plea to Tony Blair
Published on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 by the Independent / UK
Why is My Dad Far Away in That Place Called Guantanamo Bay? Young Boy's Plea to Tony Blair
by Ben Russell
 

Ten-year-old Anas el-Banna will walk to the door of Number 10 Downing Street this week to ask for an answer to the question he has been trying to have answered for four years: Why can't my Dad come home?


Former Guantanamo detainee Mourad Ben Chellali of France stands among Amnesty International activists during a demonstration held in front of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, Saturday Jan. 6, 2007. Amnesty International is asking for the closure of the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay where nearly 400 prisoners are held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
His father, Jamil, is one of eight British residents languishing among the almost 400 inmates at the American base at Guantanamo Bay, which opened five years ago to the day this Thursday - the day of Anas's protest.

Mr Banna, was taken to Guantanamo Bay four years ago after being seized in Gambia along with fellow detainee Bisher al-Rawi. He was accused of having a suspicious device in his luggage. It turned out to be a battery charger. No charges have been made.

He suffers from severe diabetes, but his lawyers say he has not been offered medication and has been denied the food he needs. His eyesight is now failing.

A year ago, his son wrote to Tony Blair for the second time to ask why the Government was not helping him return home. The then six-year-old did not even receive a reply. The second letter elicited a cursory note from the Foreign Office. It stated that because Mr Banna is not a British citizen, although his wife and children are, nothing could be done for him.

So on Thursday, carrying yet another letter, Anas and his mother Sabah will return with campaigners and MPs to demand the closure of the camp and action to free the British residents.

Their MP, the the Liberal Democrat frontbencher Sarah Teather, said the Banna children, who are of Jordanian origin but have grown up in North London, were devastated by their father's detention.

The Downing Street protest will come during a week of action to mark the fifth anniversary of Guantanamo Bay. Since its inception, the camp has drawn furious protests from across the globe. Last night, Ian McCartney, the Foreign Office minister, faced anger on the floor of the House of Commons as the MPs for Mr Banna and another detainee, Bisher al-Rawi, lambasted the Government.

Today Ms Teather will present a petition to Parliament demanding his release, while tomorrow, relatives and friends will hold a candlelit vigil outside Downing Street.

Hundreds of protesters dressed in the notorious orange boiler suits that are the uniform at Guantanamo, plan a separate protest outside the US Embassy.

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan is among a group of US activists that has travelled to Cuba to protest outside the camp, on the Cuban side. With them will be former inmate Asif Iqbal, one of the Tipton Three, who was released without charge in March 2004.

Many of the British residents have families who are British citizens, and had leave to remain in the UK, but the Government has refused to take responsibility for them. Yesterday, Ed Davey, chief of staff to the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, used the Commons debate to attack ministers for allowing British residents to "languish" in the camp.

He said: "The Government has been both hypocritical and morally bankrupt. They have condemned Guantanamo Bay but have failed to take action for the British residents." He said the US administration had offered to send the men home, but the UK had refused to accept them. He added: " The Prime Minister should stop talking about closing Guantanamo and start doing something about it."

Human rights lawyer Zachary Katznelson, senior advocate at the charity Reprieve, represents the eight men. He said several were held in solitary confinement, some in cells that were lit 24 hours a day. He added: "If they have committed any crime, of course they should be prosecuted and punished. But I have not seen evidence that they have. If it's there, let's see it."

The Foreign Office said it had agreed to make special representations on behalf of Bisher al-Rawi, but insisted that the courts had found that the Government had "no locus" to intervene of behalf of the other men.

On Thursday, Anas el-Banna will try, for the third time, to persuade them to change their minds.

British residents at Guantanamo

* JAMIL EL-BANNA, Jordanian. Held in Guantanamo since March 2003

Arrested, with Bisher al-Rawi, in the Gambia, where they had gone to set up a mobile peanut-processing plant. He was taken by the Americans to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay. He suffers from severe diabetes but his lawyers say he has not been offered medication.

* BINYAM MOHAMED, Ethiopian. Held in Guantanamo since September 2004

Came to UK in 1996 seeking asylum and was granted indefinite leave to remain. Travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 before fleeing to Pakistan. Charged in relation to an alleged dirty bomb plot at the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal. The tribunal was invalidated last year

* SHAKER AAMER, Saudi Arabian. Held in Guantanamo since February 2002

Was applying for British nationality after settling in Battersea, south London, with his wife and four children, all of whom are British citizens. Seized in Pakistan in 2002. Has been kept in isolation since September 2005 and has been on hunger strike.

* BISHER AL-RAWI, Iraqi. Held in Guantanamo since March 2003

Fled Iraq for Britain with his family 20 years ago. Arrested in the Gambia where he had travelled to help set up a peanut processing plant. Accused of taking a weapon of mass destruction.

* OMAR DEGHAYES, Libyan. Held in Guantanamo since August 2002

Became a British citizen after fleeing to the UK with his family. He appears on a "Chechnyan training video", which his lawyers insist is case of mistaken identity.

* AHMED ERRACHIDI, Moroccan. Held in Guantanamo since May 2002

Worked as a cook in London for 18 years. Seized in Pakistan and accused of attending a terrorist training camp in July 2001. His lawyers say he was working in London at the time. He is in isolation.

* AHMED BELBACHA, Algerian. Held in Guantanamo since March 2002

Lived in Bournemouth, where he worked in the hotel trade. The 37-year-old was refused refugee status in Britain, but granted indefinite leave to remain. Arrested in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in 2001. Alleged to have attended a training camp, which he denies.

* ABDELNOUR SAMEUR, Algerian. Held in Guantanamo since June 2002

The 33-year-old decorator, who settled in north London, was granted refugee status in 2000. Went to Afghanistan in 2001 and was shot in Pakistan trying to reach the Algerian embassy. He was arrested in hospital. Alleged to have attended a training camp, which he denies

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article

 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Copyrighted 1997-2011