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ON Wednesday, America’s detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as “undeliverable,” and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.
Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty. It was only after the United States Supreme Court ordered the government to defend its actions before a federal judge that I was finally able to clear my name and be with them again.
I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.
Since October 7, 2001, when the current war in Afghanistan began, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo. Of these, most have been released without charge or transferred to facilities in their home countries. The Department of Defense often referred to these prisoners as the "worst of the worst", but a 2003 memo by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says, "We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants ... GTMO needs to serve as an [redacted] not a prison for Afghanistan." As of January 2012, 171 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
Three have been convicted by military court of various charges:
David Hicks was found guilty under retrospective legislation introduced in 2006 of providing material support for terrorism in 2001.
Salim Hamdan accepted a position on Osama bin Laden's personal staff as a chauffeur.[26
Ali al-Bahlul made a video celebrating the attack on the USS Cole (DDG-67).