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Saudi Gitmo detainees’ death

Last updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 5:51 AM
MADINA – Talal Al-Zahrani, the father of a former Guantanamo detainee who died there three years ago, has sent videotaped testimony to the US court hearing a case filed by six Arab lawyers to uncover facts about the death of three detainees – two Saudis, Yasser Al-Zahrani, 23; and Mani’ Al-Otaibi, 29; and a Yemeni, Salah Al-Salmi.
Talal Al-Zahrani said it was confirmed to him that the team of lawyers has received the videotape, which will be provided to the court in Washington D.C. that is looking into the case of the death of his son, Yasser, and the other men. He said the videotape contains a seven-minute voice recording in which he addresses the US president and the American people and judiciary.
In the videotape, he said not disclosing the circumstances surrounding the killing of an unarmed prisoner violates the principles and bases of freedom and human rights.
The court has not decided if it will listen to the tape or look into the case, which another court rejected three months ago on the basis of a clause in the American judiciary system preventing it from accepting lawsuits concerning Guantanamo detainees.
Since that decision, lawyers have uncovered new evidence that the men were killed, despite official claims that they committed suicide.
Al-Zahrani added that he asked the lawyers to send the tape to the court in preparation for including it in the case file.
In the videotape he said, “Refusing to look into the case is not in conformity with the principles of freedom and equality that you are calling for and are keen to implement on your territories. Are human rights in the US restricted to the American citizen only? Also, you look into cases of violations of animal rights while you are refusing to take to task those who have committed the crime of murder against human beings, despite the existence of evidences proving this has taken place.”
In the tape, Al-Zahrani also addressed US President Barack Obama. “I’m not forced to stain your hands with a crime that took place during the era of the head of the previous government,” he said.
In the tape, Al-Zahrani also pointed out that Obama had vowed to close Guantanamo.
“You promised after becoming president of your country to close down Guantanamo detention facility, but the prisoners from a number of countries are still confined behind its fences without trial for several years now,” he said.
In his testimony, Al-Zahrani included new allegations by American soldiers, which were published in March by Harpers, a respected magazine that has been published for 160 years.
Addressing Al-Zahrani’s father, the magazine article said, “Don’t believe any story indicating that your son, Yasser, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell. The former detainee and his two colleagues Al-Otaibi and the Yemeni detainee (Salah Al-Salmi) were taken from their cells to a place outside the detention facility. Several hours later, they said the detainees had committed suicide.”
Al-Zahrani said pressure being exerted by the extremist Right on the American courts has resulted in the courts rejecting the case due to a fear of reactions from independent media in America and abroad if it is accepted.
Al-Zahrani said the case document included the names of the four soldiers who raised serious questions about the men’s deaths and a request that they be summoned to stand before the court to give their testimony, but the matter depends on the court accepting the case.
Regardless of what happens in the ongoing court case, Al-Zahrani said he will not give up his pursuit of justice. “If the case is overlooked for the second time, we will go to the US Supreme Court,” he said. – Okaz/SG
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