Friday, May 2, 2008

Your Friday News Dump™

After over six years of imprisonment by the United States in the Gitmo Gulag, and sixteen months of a hunger strike and force-feeding, al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj is a free man.

Six years of his life, gone. And no charges were ever filed.
The case of Hajj, 39, had been taken up by journalism advocacy organizations as well as his news channel, which is owned by the government of Qatar, a key war-on-terror ally of the United States.

Also released were Amir Yacoub al Amir, 37, and Walid Ali, 33, according to a release from the London based human rights law firm Reprieve, which filed suit on behalf of Hajj and Yacoub.

Yacoub, the release said, was imprisoned for over six years, after he was taken into custody in Pakistan in March 2002. According to Pentagon records, he celebrates his 38th birthday next week.

Pentagon panels had branded Hajj an "enemy combatant,'' disputing his claim that he had simply been a working journalist in a war zone. He had worked for al Jazeera as a cameraman.

Hajj's civil liberties lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, declared the development "a wonderful moment for Sami's wife and son.'' But, he said, "the U.S. military has a lot of explaining to do as to why an innocent journalist was held so long.''

A year ago, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon said in a statement to McClatchy newspapers that Hajj "has declined to answer any questions about his alleged role in supporting terror networks'' despite "a significant amount of evidence, both unclassified and classified, which supports continued detention of Sami al Hajj by U.S. forces.''

Hajj was one of three detainees repatriated to Sudan as well. Speaking from his hospital bed in Khartoum, Sudan, he praised Allah for his freedom. "Thank God ... for being free again. Our eyes have the right to shed tears after we have spent all those years in prison. ... But our joy is not going to be complete until our brothers in Guantanamo Bay are freed. The situation is very bad and getting worse day after day," he said of conditions in Guantanamo. He claimed guards prevent Muslims from practicing their religion and reading the Quran. "Some of our brothers live without clothing," he said.

What, pray tell, have we become? I hang my head in shame. The behavior of our so-called leaders over the last seven-plus years makes me hang my head in shame. These behaviors are, to be perfectly blunt, a textbook example of un-American.

The video below is from al Jazeera via YouTube. It is not easy to watch.

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