Thursday, December 15, 2005

With friends like these..

Oy, according to the Washington Post, the U.S. government imprisoned at least one man in Guantanamo who was on our side.

When U.S. forces freed Saddiq Ahmad Turkistani from a Taliban prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in late 2001, the detainee met with reporters at a news conference and told U.S. officials that he had been wrongly imprisoned for allegedly plotting to kill Osama bin Laden.

An ethnic Uighur who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Turkistani said he believed in the U.S. campaign against terrorism. He professed hatred for al Qaeda and the Taliban -- groups he said tortured him in prison -- and offered to help the United States. Intelligence officials and U.N. representatives told Turkistani they would seek to find him refuge, possibly in Pakistan, according to accounts he later gave his lawyers.

Instead, Turkistani was taken to a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, where he was stripped, bound and thrown behind bars. U.S. officials then strapped him into an airplane, fitted him with dark goggles and sent him to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2002, according to U.S. lawyers who represent him.

Nearly four years later, Turkistani remains there, despite being cleared for release early this year after a government review concluded he is "no longer an enemy combatant." It is unclear exactly when that determination was made, but Justice Department lawyers gave notice of it in an Oct. 11 court filing.

Turkistani wrote a letter to his lawyers in recent months, in which he asked about the welfare of his family, whom he has not heard from in eight years: "Now, I have been under the control of the Americans for the past three years and eight months. Six months ago, I was told by the Americans that I am innocent and I am not an enemy combatant."

It remains a mystery why Turkistani was sent to Guantanamo Bay at all. Some officials and his lawyers speculate that he has been held by mistake. Or, they say, some officials may have believed he had intelligence value because bin Laden accused him of trying to plot his killing in 1998. U.S. officials have offered no public explanation.

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