Yahdih Ould Slahi holds up a photo of his brother Mohamedou in a May 2016 video by American Civil Liberties Union © acluvideos / YouTube
US authorities detained, interrogated and sent back a German citizen flying in to campaign for the release of his brother – author of the best-selling “Guantanamo Diary,” who has been imprisoned and tortured at the US camp since 2002.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir, heavily redacted by government censors, was published in 2015 and quickly became a best-seller. The Mauritanian native was arrested in 2001 and rendered to Jordan for interrogation by the CIA. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay the following year.
His younger brother Yahdih, a German citizen, has campaigned for Mohamedou’s release for years. Yahdih was supposed to attend a number of events in the US this week, seeking to persuade Guantanamo’s Periodic Review Board to set Mohamedou free at the June 2 hearing.
When Yahdih Slahi arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York on Saturday, however, he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents, questioned for hours, and sent back to Germany the following day, The Intercept reported.
“He was asked questions about his family, his brother, and what he knew about why his brother was in Guantánamo,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It was a harrowing, stressful, and exhausting experience.”
Yahdih Slahi is a German citizen who lives in Düsseldorf, and would have been able to enter the US under the visa waiver program that Germany participates in. The CBP gave no explanation for denying Slahi entry.
In his memoir, Mohamedou Slahi described being held in isolation and subjected to beatings, extreme cold, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse, a simulated kidnapping, and a simulated execution. At one point, his captors tried to trick him by showing him a forged letter from his mother, Yahdih recounted in 2015. The ploy failed because the forgery misspelled Slahi’s name – and because, unbeknownst to his jailers, Slahi’s mother was illiterate.
Mohamedou Slahi admits that he fought in Afghanistan in the early 1990s with what became Al-Qaeda– when the organization was backed by the US in its struggle against the socialist government in Kabul. While he had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda since 1992, Slahi did stay in touch with his cousin and former brother-in-law, Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, who served as a lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden.
Slahi was never charged with any crime, but the 2010 decision to release him has been held up by government appeals.
“The judge said there was no evidence in 2010 to hold him. There’s certainly not evidence now. The Chief Prosecutor said when he resigned in 2007, that there was no evidence then,” Slahi’s attorney Nancy Hollander told RT in January 2015.
Slahi’s family and friends hope the Periodic Review Board will recommend his release at the June 2 hearing. The inter-agency panel ruled on Monday to set free an Afghan man, known only as Obaidullah, who was held at Guantanamo for 14 years.
It took a decade of fighting with the government for the Guantanamo Diary, written in 2005, to see the light of day. Slahi is the first Guantanamo prisoner to publish a memoir while still at the camp. He has not been allowed to receive a copy of his book.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that he had ordered Israeli police to suspend the return of bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, after seeing footage of a crowd gathering outside the funeral of one such slain Palestinians earlier during the day.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri reported on Tuesday that Erdan had watched footage of the funeral of “terrorist” Alaa Abu Jamal in occupied East Jerusalem, which prompted “anger, disapproval and condemnation.”
Abu Jamal, 22, was killed by Israeli police on October 13, after he rammed his car into a bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing one Israeli and injuring four others.
More than seven months later, Israeli authorities released his body for burial on Tuesday morning, on the condition that his family pay a 40,000 shekel ($10,353.30) deposit and that only 40 people attend the funeral.
However, Israeli forces held Abu Jamal’s body at the Oz police station for two hours due to the large number of people around the cemetery, amid heavy deployment of Israeli security forces.
The Palestinian bystanders chanted “God is great,” a phrase used regularly during Muslim funerals, as well as “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, martyr,” a variation on a popular Arabic political slogan.
Erdan accused the crowd of “incitement,” calling the scene “inadmissible by all standards and measurements everywhere, the more so in the capital Jerusalem.”
Israel refers to Jerusalem as its “united” capital and annexed the city in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.
A spokesperson for Erdan did not immediately respond to Ma’an’s request for comment.
Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians, including six Jerusalemites, killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.
Earlier this month, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the release of the bodies of nine Palestinian from Jerusalem being withheld by Israel. Three have already been released, although it remained unclear on Tuesday whether Erdan’s order would supercede the court ruling.
More than 200 Palestinians and almost 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.
Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.
A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group Adalah condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.”
In recent months, Israel has accused numerous Palestinians of “incitement,” alleging that it was behind a number of alleged attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers.
Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
HEBRON – A group of right-wing Israeli settlers broke into an uninhabited Palestinian house in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday and stole wooden furniture, presumably to be burned during bonfire celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer.
A spokesperson for Hebron-based activist group Youth Against Settlement, Issa Amro, told Ma’an that the houses belonged to the the Al-Sayyid Ahmad and Tahboub families, who have been banned from accessing their homes in Hebron’s Old City since Israeli forces sealed the area around al-Shuhada Street in 1994.
The holiday of Lag BaOmer, which will take place on Wednesday evening, commemorates the death of second-century Jewish mystic Simeon bar Yochai, and is traditionally celebrated with bonfires
It is not uncommon for young Israelis celebrating Lag BaOmer to steal wood from construction sites and other locations ahead of the holiday.
Local Palestinian house and shop owners in Hebron’s Old City have been banned from accessing their homes and shops after a US-born Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque that year.
In the aftermath of the massacre, Hebron was divided into area H1, under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and area H2 which includes the Old City and surrounding areas under full Israeli military control.
The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers carried out in the presence of the forces.
Draconian plans to target alleged extremists through a controversial anti-radicalization program are at risk of creating a ‘Thought Police’ in the UK, the officer leading the operation has warned.
In a damning critique, Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole said the ‘Prevent’ legislation risks making cops judges of “what people can and cannot say.”
The government formally announced a controversial new bill to tackle extremism in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament last week. It is considered to be Prime Minister David Cameron’s flagship policy of the year.
The legislation widens the police fight to include those who are defined as ‘extremists’, but who do not take part in or even advocate terrorism themselves.
“Unless you can define what extremism is very clearly then it’s going to be really challenging to enforce,” Cole told the Guardian.
“We don’t want to be the Thought Police. We absolutely don’t want to be the Thought Police.”
When asked if the Prevent strategy could make this happen, Cole said: “Potentially there is a risk.”
Cole’s intervention will prove damaging for the government, coming from a senior counterterrorism officer.
Cameron already faced several embarrassing defeats last parliamentary year, despite having a slim majority of seats in the House of Commons, and will be keen to avoid another capitulation.
But Cole believes the legislation has triggered serious reservations among British Muslims.
“The police need to be able to safeguard people without being drawn into a hugely contentious potential role about a kind of thought police control of what people can and cannot say.
“And that needs really clearly defining and it needs parliament to lay out what is and isn’t acceptable,” he added.
Despite spending eight months drafting a “legally robust” definition of extremism, government officials are still struggling to complete the task.
Cole said he has concerns about how “enforceable” the legislation would be, adding it is important for police officers to speak out.
While he accepted that society must impose “some limits” on what can and cannot be said, “They [the limits] need to be as broad as they possibly can be.”
In another setback for the death penalty trial of the five men accused of aiding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two defense lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed say the U.S. government secretly destroyed relevant evidence.
On May 11, defense lawyers for the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks asked for judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team to be recused from the trial, and for the case to be shut down. Defense lawyers David Nevin and Maj. Derek Poteet say that the U.S. government destroyed evidence related to the case, according to the New York Times. The two men are unable to provide further details because the issue is classified, but Mr. Nevin said the evidence was “favorable” to the defendants.
Major Poteet also told the Times that the defense was first informed in February that Colonel Pohl would provide them with a “summary of a substitute” for the original, classified evidence. The defense requested Colonel Pohl to preserve the evidence for the record and Pohl complied. Or so they thought.
“But they learned in February, they said, that about 20 months earlier, and without their knowledge, prosecutors had obtained from Colonel Pohl a secret order that reversed his previous decision,” the Times writes. “By the time they found out, the government had already destroyed the evidence, giving them no opportunity to challenge the move.”
Major Poteet said the situation created the appearance that Colonel Pohl was “colluding with the government.” The Times reports that the original, now destroyed evidence, may have been related to one of several foreign black site prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Afghanistan, and at a secret site at the Guantánamo base. KSM was tortured for several years at one of these sites before being transferred to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2006.
The accusations are likely to delay upcoming scheduled hearings from May 30 to June 3. If there is a delay it will be latest in a long line of interruptions to this alleged pursuit of justice. Most recently, Col. Pohl canceled two weeks of hearings that were scheduled to begin on Friday, April 1st.
“The whole thing is really odd to me. I thought it was an April Fools’ joke,” said Chicago defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, who was already in Washington to travel to Guantánamo this weekend to represent alleged 9/11 plot deputy Walid bin Attash.
The destruction of evidence is, unfortunately, not the first controversy this trial has faced. Another conflict of interest became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Foreign Policy reported,
the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.
There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:
In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo “kill-switch.”
Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.
In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.
Is this trial really about truth, justice, and upholding law and order? If the military court hopes to find something close to the truth they should open the hearings to the public, end the spying on the defense team, and be transparent about the treatment of the alleged hijackers. Only by allowing the truth to be released will the wounds of 9/11 begin to heal.
Israeli police brutally beat up an Arab supermarket worker in Central Tel Aviv after he refused to identify himself because he didn’t know who they were, according to eyewitnesses.
The border police officers were off-duty in civilian clothes when they attacked the worker, an Israeli Arab, on Sunday afternoon at the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gairol Street, opposite the Tel Aviv municipality.
The worker went to dispose of garbage when one of the policemen, dressed in shorts, demanded he identified himself. When the worker asked by what authority he was being asked to identify himself, the policeman began hitting him, witnesses said, according to the newspaper Haaretz.
“The blows were murderous, from the guy and from one of his friends. I’ve never seen anything like it. Teeth were flying through the air. The Arab was torn apart,” Erez Krispin, an eyewitness, wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.
An old woman tried to interfere asking why they were beating him but the attackers screamed at her telling her to leave.
“Then police arrived and joined the two hooligans in beating him… I really don’t know if the Arab is still alive. They pushed him into a police van, not an ambulance, and disappeared. It later turned out that the two were Border Policemen (who didn’t identify themselves)” the witness said.
Another witness said, “He was beaten only because he’s Muslim,” Super Yuda owner Kobi Cohen told Walla News. “His only crime was that he’s not Jewish.”
Cohen further said that the original attackers were joined by plainclothes policemen and that there were as many as 10 people beating the worker.
“All the neighborhood knows him and knows that he’s a good guy who isn’t looking for trouble,” the victim’s father told Haaretz.
The father of the assaulted youth further said that this attack demonstrates the situation in Israel at the moment and he holds the prime minister and the public security minister responsible for such horrible incidents.
He added that the entire nation has seen the video and the police shouldn’t wait for his complaint but should check this on their own and make those cops and thugs pay.
The Israeli Police on the other hand made a statement saying that according to an initial investigation the Border Police officers identified a young man who they thought looked suspicious and asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the policemen, one of whom was bitten.
MK Dov Henin (Joint Arab List) filed an urgent appeal with the public security minister, asking for answers “about what appears to be, on the face of it, a lynching in broad daylight, an attack of an innocent civilian by police, only because he’s Arab.”
Gaza made the front page of The New York Times recently, with an article highlighting the fears of residents who suspect Hamas of building tunnels under and near their homes. The topic was ready-made for the newspaper, fitting perfectly into the Israeli (and Times) spin on the besieged enclave.
According to the accepted narrative, the problems in Gaza are due to Hamas, and Israel is free from blame. Thus we find the tunnel story played prominently on the front page under the headline “As Hamas Tunnels Back Into Israel, Palestinians Are Afraid, Too.”
There is much cause for despair in Gaza—fishermen and farmers come under attack, drinking water is ever more scarce, patients are desperate for adequate medical care—but the Times has failed to highlight any of these issues, which are so clearly due to Israeli actions and policies.
The official Israeli line is that Hamas oppresses the residents under its control, and Israeli political leaders use this charge to help justify their airstrikes on Hamas sites and other actions, such as restrictions on the delivery of building materials to Gaza. The Times has been a willing partner in this effort.
So it is no surprise when the newspaper informs us that Hamas has rebuilt many of the tunnels it used during the assaults on Gaza in the summer of 2014, and this is causing anxiety for some Gaza residents who live near signs of underground construction work. They fear that Israel will bomb their neighborhoods to destroy the tunnels.
The story is just what the Israeli army press office ordered, and the Times willingly promotes this propaganda effort even as it shows little interest in even more urgent concerns that plague the residents of the strip. It had nothing to say, for instance, when Israel arrested 20 Gaza fishermen over less than a week this month and confiscated seven of their boats (here and here) even though they were fishing within the approved limit set by Israel.
Israeli harassment of the beleaguered fishermen has been a constant over the years: According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Israeli forces detained 71 fishermen and confiscated 22 fishing boats in 2015, firing on fishing boats at least 139 times, wounding 24 fishermen and damaging 16 boats. The attacks have continued without letup this year.
The Times, however, has almost totally ignored the subject. The paper took notice briefly last month, when Israel announced new rules allowing Gaza boats to sail farther out to sea, and the story most certainly made the grade because it was a chance to show Israel in a benevolent light. The Times has been silent on the issue ever since.
Farmers with land near the border fence also face frequent attacks by Israeli soldiers who fire live ammunition at workers tending their fields, and Israel has destroyed crops and farm buildings, spraying fields of spinach and peas with herbicides and leveling land with bulldozers.
The Times has failed to report these incursions as well, although the United Nations documents them in weekly reports, and other news sources routinely tell of the assaults.
According to the UN, as of May 16, the Israeli military had made 30 incursions into Gaza this year. Its forces entered the enclave at least 56 times during 2015. These mini invasions—which include tanks, bulldozers and live fire—are breaches of the truce agreement made to end hostilities in 2014, but the Times has not seen fit to report them.
Instead, the newspaper prefers to raise the alarm about possible attacks from Gaza via the tunnels, ignoring the relevant context: the frequent shootings and other assaults by Israeli forces and the nine-year blockade, which finds not a single mention in the tunnel article.
Israel blocks the entry of needed medical supplies into Gaza, denies doctors the right to upgrade their skills in foreign countries and prevents many patients from leaving the enclave to receive the treatment they need. It has destroyed electrical equipment, wells and water treatment plants, and the lack of potable water has reached such a critical stage that only some 5 percent of the water in Gaza is safe to drink.
The Times, however, has shown no interest in exploring these crucial issues. It follows a prescribed narrative in deflecting blame from Israel and demonizing Hamas. The tunnel story fit this bill and thus merited a prime placement on page 1 above the fold.
The British government is providing military training to the majority of nations it has blacklisted for human rights violations, a new report reveals.
In a report published on Sunday, the Independent revealed that 16 of the 30 countries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s “human rights priority” watchlist are receiving military support from the UK despite being accused by London itself of issues ranging from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, since 2014, British armed forces have provided “either security or armed forces personnel” to the military forces of Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Britain is a major provider of weapons and equipment such as cluster bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in its year-long military aggression against Yemen that has killed nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children.
Since the conflict began in March 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of nearly $4 billion worth of weaponry to the Saudi kingdom.
British commandos also train Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite allegations that the Persian Gulf monarchy uses such specialist forces to suppress a years-long pro-democracy uprising in the country.
Bahraini forces visited the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, accompanied by troops from Nigeria, the Defense Ministry said.
Nigeria’s top military generals are accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes by causing the deaths of 8,000 people through murder, starvation, suffocation and torture during security operations against the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorists, according to the report.
Andrew Smith, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries known for being “some of the most authoritarian states in the world.”
Haaretz reported today that “Israeli Death Penalty for Terrorists Won’t Apply to Jews.”
The death penalty for murder in a ‘terror act’ that incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seeks will only apply to military courts, said a Likud source involved in the talks to bring Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition.
Such a move, which Lieberman demands if his party is to join the government, would effectively exclude its application against Jews. Palestinians accused of terror offenses are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, while Jews charged with similar crimes against Palestinians are usually tried in Israeli civilian courts, noted the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The meaning of it is simple. Though Jews are not a race, Jewish politics (left, right and centre) is always racist to the core.
Pakistan has denounced the US drone strike believed to have killed the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
In a statement issued to the media, Pakistan’s foreign office said the drone strike was a violation of its sovereignty, adding that information about the drone strike was shared with the prime minister and the army chief after the strike.
“It may be recalled that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on 18th May had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan and called upon the Taliban to give up violence and join peace talks,” the statement said.
Afghanistan’s spy agency known as National Security Directorate (NDS), senior officials in Kabul and some militant sources on Sunday confirmed that the Taliban leader was killed after the US drones targeted his vehicle in a remote area of in a remote area of south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.
On Saturday, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement that it had mounted the strike against Mansour “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
File photo shows a picture of the leader of Taliban militant group, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.
The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the operation had been authorized by President Barack Obama.
The development comes as relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy.
Senior Afghan officials blame elements inside the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for supporting the Taliban militants and sheltering its leadership, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border.
Moreover, senior officials in Kabul have been frustrated by what they see as Islamabad’s refusal to honor a pledge to force Taliban leaders based in Pakistan to join negotiations.
They have long blamed Pakistan for turning a blind eye to the Taliban militant group whose leadership is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.
The Taliban has seen a string of defections ever since the news about the death of its founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, broke in late July 2015.
Mullah Omar died at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in April 2013.
Pakistan, which wields influence on the insurgent group, mediated the first round of direct peace talks between delegates from the Afghan government and the Taliban last summer, but a planned second meeting was canceled after news broke that Taliban’s founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago. In recent months, a four-member group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been attempting to revive the talks.
There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over the negotiations, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in the talks.
British Professor Catherine Hall
A prominent British academic and historian has refused to accept a $330,000 prize by an Israeli university.
Professor Catherine Hall of University College London was slated to receive the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University on Sunday, but withdrew her acceptance citing political reasons.
“This was an independent political choice, undertaken after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act,” Hall said in a statement.
The annual academic award includes a series of $1 million prizes which are handed out in three fields.
As a historian, Hall was due to receive the prize for her “impact on social history, as a pioneer in gender history, race and slavery.”
Hall’s work on women’s history in the 1970s has helped her become known as a major feminist.
The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine described Hall’s decision as “a significant endorsement of the campaign to end ties with Israeli institutions.”
Hall’s share of the million dollar prize will now be given to three economists involved in the fight against poverty, three nano-science researchers, and two historians of social history.
The news comes amid tensions between Tel Aviv and London over remarks by several key British political figures who have condemned the Israeli regime’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, was suspended from the Labor Party in late April after bringing up the issue of Israeli war crimes and stating that Adolf Hitler was a supporter of Zionism.
Before him, Naz Shah, a member of the British Parliament resigned as an aide to the party’s shadow chancellor after being forced to apologize for backing calls for Israel to “relocate” to the United States.
In early July 2014, Israel waged a devastating war on the Gaza Strip. The 50-day offensive claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children.
The British government has banned all public bodies from joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel which demands the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land particularly through illegal settlement constructions in the occupied territories.