Al Jazeera detainee 'passively suicidal'
Doha: The wife of Guantanamo detainee Sami Al Haj, a Sudanese
cameraman for the Al Jazeera network held since January 2002, said her
husband's mental condition had deteriorated and called yesterday on
relief and human rights agencies to mobilise his liberation.
The Al Jazeera network also launched a new appeal to the US
administration and military last week asking these to conform to
international human rights standards and to provide medical attention
for Sami, given the apparent deterioration of his mental state.
"My husband is very sick, I fear for his mental and physical health,"
Aigol Al Haj told Gulf News here in Doha where she lives with her
"I am desperate; all the efforts to free him have been in vain for the
past six years."
Aigol saw her husband for the last time in mid-2001 before he was
arrested by the US military while working for Al Jazeera during the US
invasion of Afghanistan. Since then Sami has been detained in the
Cuban military facility without any specific charge and without trial.
On Wednesday, Al Jazeera issued a statement saying that doctors who
visited Sami have described his status as passively suicidal.
"Independent medical experts from the United States and Britain,
reviewing recent conversations with Sami reveal that his mental state
has deteriorated severely and he is in desperate need of medical
attention... they believe that he is suffering from severe depression,
and characterise him as 'passively suicidal'," the statement said.
D.L. Creson, a mental health professional, and Hugh Rickards, a noted
consultant in neuropsychiatry, was quoted as saying the cameraman "no
longer has the ability to cope with his relentlessly traumatic
environment and he is becoming a case of passive suicide".
They suggested that Sami may be facing the onset of a mental disorder
as a result of his indefinite detention, according to the statement.
Waddah Khanfar, Director-General of the Al Jazeera network, appealed
to the US Government for his liberation. "We demand the US officials
release him immediately. Al Jazeera continues to stand by Sami and
with just cause."
Al Jazeera also called on the public to visit the website
www.prisoner345.net and support the campaign to free the cameraman
In the meantime Aigol, an Azerbaijani national, said she received the
last letter from her husband in July, through the embassy of Sudan in
"He wrote verses in English, he had never written in English before.
It had no clear meaning," she said, doubting the originality of the
At intervals Sami had written letters in Arabic to his wife over the
past six years, which were delivered to her and Al Jazeera through the
Red Cross in Jordan.
However she said at some point her husband's communications became
rare until they completely stopped.
By Barbara Bibbo', Correspondent
Published: September 24, 2007, 00:25
Take from http://www.gulfnews.com. Original post here.
Release Guantanamo cameraman, journalists urge U.S.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A television cameraman who has been held at the
U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison since 2001 is suffering medical problems
due to a long hunger strike and must be released immediately, a
leading journalist group said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Sami al-Haj, a
cameraman for television station Al Jazeera, has been on hunger strike
and his lawyers have described him as being in "a serious physical and
Al-Haj, who was born in Sudan, was picked up at the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border in December 2001 and the IFJ said he had
been tortured and accused of terrorism offences although he has not
been charged or brought to trial.
"Our colleague's health is rapidly deteriorating and his relatives now
fear for his life. The time has come for journalists all over the
world to take up his case and join the campaign to get him freed,"
said IFJ President Jim Boumelha on Monday.
Washington has said it could send al-Haj to Sudan but has asked
Khartoum for guarantees he will not leave Sudan before it releases
him, the cameraman's brother said in August.
Time Running Out for Sami Al-Haj
Al Jazeera cameraman and Guantanamo detainee Sami Al-Haj is feared to
be in critical condition on the 250th day of his hunger strike, as
pressure mounts for his release. Recent reports warn of a severe
deterioration in the physical and mental health of Sami Al-Haj, the Al
Jazeera cameraman who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than
five years. Al-Haj has been on a hunger strike for 250 days and is
According to a September 10 statement by his lawyer Clive Stafford
Smith, Al-Haj is losing his memory and his grip on reality, has
intestinal disorders and is in immediate need of external medical
intervention. On September 11, a medical report written by American
and British psychiatrists warned that recent statements by Al-Haj
indicate a mental state of "major depression with psychotic features"
and are consistent with sufferers of trauma seeking "passive suicide."
The reports suggest that Al-Haj may soon become the fifth detainee to
die at Guantanamo.
Al-Haj was seized by Pakistani and U.S. forces in December 2001 while
on assignment with Al Jazeera covering the U.S. air strikes in
Afghanistan. He was sent to Guantanamo in June 2002. As with most
Guantanamo detainees, he has not been charged with any crime.
Assertions by the U.S. military that Al-Haj was involved with al-Qaeda
have not been substantiated.
According to Stafford Smith, the military's interrogations of Sami
have focused almost exclusively on obtaining intelligence on Al
Jazeera and its staff, rather than on his purported al-Qaeda
associations. This seems to validate the widespread belief outside the
United States, where an international campaign to demand the release
of Sami Al-Haj is building momentum, that his incarceration is part of
a U.S. campaign to punish Al Jazeera for its critical coverage of the
Bush Administration and its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The movement to free Sami Al-Haj has been much slower to build in the
United States than internationally, due partly to its low media
coverage here. On September 12, the American Committee to Free Sami
Al-Haj demanded the immediate release of Al-Haj from Guantanamo. The
group is also calling on the U.S. Congress to investigate reports that
the military has held Sami Al-Haj at Guantanamo in order to obtain
intelligence on the Arab television network and/or to punish it for
its news coverage.
According to Sara Pursley, a member of the group: "The U.S. Congress
has the authority and the responsibility to investigate possible
violations of U.S. and international law by the Bush Administration in
its campaign against Al Jazeera, including its 6-year incarceration of
Sami Al-Haj. Congress should also be interested in the Bush
Administration's mockery of democratic principles such as freedom of
expression and freedom of the press, even while claiming to foster
such principles in the Arab world as part of its justification for war."
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