Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, is the only journalist to have been detained at the US camp in Guantánamo. He was held there for over 6 years.
“The media does not talk as much about Guantánamo as before. But there are still many men inside and the torture continues,” said Sami al-Haj.
He was arrested on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001 after he was sent to cover the US war against the Taliban despite having a legitimate work visa. There were suspicions that he was linked to al-Qaeda when his name and passport number came up on a list from Pakistan intelligence. The passport number was for an old document, previously reported as lost two years earlier.
Sami al-Hajj was held as a prisoner in Afghanistan and Pakistan for five months before being handed over to US forces and taken to Guantanamo Bay as an “enemy combatant”. The US accused him of working for Al Jazeera to facilitate “terrorist acts”. He was illegally detained and tortured by US authorities for nearly seven years, before his release in May 2008.
Since then, he has been campaigning on behalf of detainees. He plans a legal case against former US president George Bush and other officials, on behalf of all Guantánamo detainees. “I need them to go to court … we don’t want (what happened to us) to be repeated again,” he says.
He believes the media is giving an easy ride to the current US president. “They believe Obama and his promises, but he has not kept them. Obama said he would immediately close Guantánamo Bay when he came to power. He has not. He said he would bring the people who committed torture to trial. He has not.”