Amy Goodman writes: It takes courage to enter a warzone willingly, armed with a microphone and a camera as a journalist. That is what al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj was doing in December 2001, as he was entering Afghanistan from Pakistan to cover the US military operations there.
While his colleague was allowed in, al-Hajj was arrested, in what was to be a harrowing, nightmarish odyssey that lasted close to seven years, most of it spent as prisoner 345, the only journalist imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay – without charge. Al-Hajj is out now, back at work at al-Jazeera and reunited with his family. His recollections of the horror of detention by the United States should be front and center in the forthcoming confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, John Brennan.
It has been 11 years since the Guantánamo prison was opened, and four years since President Obama promised to close it within a year.
“He speaks very eloquently [about] what many hundreds of other detainees suffered, who cannot tell their story,” Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told me:
“The brutality he suffered in Afghanistan, the fact that he was turned over for political reasons or for a bounty, the arbitrariness of his detention in Guantanamo and the brutality of his treatment there.”
I sat down with Sami al-Hajj last month at al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar. [Continue reading…]