Adel Hamad: How Guantanamo Imprisons Aid Workers

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Adel Hamad is a prisoner at the Guantanamo base in Cuba. He is a teacher and an aid worker. He was taken as an enemy combatant because it is alleged that the hospital he worked in - WAMY (World Assembly of Muslim Youth) - may support "terrorist ideals". Of course, he was not the head of the hospital, nor a financial supporter. His job was to buy food for the Afghani hospital, to write vouchers, to take employee attendance. He later worked at the WAMY office in Pakistan where his job was to get food, blankets and clothing to refugees coming across the border.

Of course, Adel Hamad didn't get a trial to defend himself - he is off U.S. soil, and not an American citizen. All he got was an Administrative Review, where he could not even prepare his own defense. Yet at this administrative review, an Army Major dissented from the decision to keep Hamad locked up, arguing that his imprisonment is unconscionable, that even if WAMY supported terrorist ideals, we should not declare every employee of the hospital an enemy combatant. The Administrative Review panel argued that Hamad may have come into contact with Al-Qaeda or Taliban members in the course of providing aid to refugees, but the dissenting Army Major mentions that by this logic we should classify every local merchant as an enemy combatant.

The fact is, Hamad was not captured on the battlefield. He was arrested from home in the middle of the night, with a valid passport and work visa. Pakistani intelligence found nothing incriminating in his home. Other doctors and aid workers he worked with said he was a kind man who had no extreme views. He has not been accused of any terrorist acts or acts supporting terrorism, nor of any belligerent act. He got picked up on a routine sweep for Arabs in Pakistan because he worked for the wrong hospital.

What is disturbing here is not that such mistakes could happen. What is disturbing is that because we allow a place like Guantanamo to exist outside the normal legal framework, and allow the higher ups in the executive branch to classify anyone as an enemy combatant willy-nilly, people who are wrongly accused do not get a fair and impartial trial to prove their innocence. Mistakes happen, but our legal system was built to allow the opportunity for the accused to defend themselves so that those mistakenly accused can be set free. Just because these are not American citizens does not mean it is okay for us to take people from their homes - many of them admittedly innocent - and ship them across the world to be trapped in a high security facility (established offshore to avoid recourse to appeals under U.S. federal law), and never give them a real chance to prove their innocence.

I originally wrote about Guantanamo (back when it was called Camp X-Ray) early on, and unfortunately things there have not changed much. The recently established Administrative Review Board has not served its alleged purpose. The status reviews did not allow the suspects to have legal counsel, they were not allowed to know what allegations they had to defend themselves against, and there was no presumption of innocence (like you would find in a court on U.S. soil). And of course, those people who were set free by the status reviews (i.e. mistaken prisoners) had already been in prison for years before the first set of reviews happened in 2005. For more information on the Guantanamo camp's current status, you can start off at the Guantanamo Wikipedia page, which provides sources to further check out for most of its claims.

Below, as long as the youTube link works, is a documentary produced to raise awareness of Adel Hamad's situation, though I hope people will keep in mind that regardless of this one man's guilt or innocence - even if he is freed - there are countless others being kept in this situation with no real legal recourse against the accusations, no real chance to prove their innocence. This is why all Americans should fight to abolish legal-limbo situations like that in Guantanamo and ask the military to only hold those who actually deserve to be held.

Originally Written: 02-03-07
Last Updated: 02-03-07