Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicago lawyers call on Obama to close Guantanamo

Shawalie Khan doesn’t know when - or if - he'll ever go home again.

He is one of the 171 men still detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, out of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the U.S. military prison over the last decade.

And like other detainees, Khan remains locked up even though he was cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. military tribunal.

"He's there because a single paid informant said he was al-Qaida, and that was enough back then, in 2002, to send you to Guantanamo," said Len Goodman, a Chicago-based attorney who represents Khan.

Goodman, along with two other Chicago attorneys who have represented detainees on a pro-bono basis, spoke Saturday at a forum at the Corboy Law Center at Loyola University's Water Tower Campus on the 10th anniversary of the prison's opening in early 2002. The attorneys called on President Barack Obama to close the facility, as he pledged to do three years ago.

Andrew Moss, a Chicago-based attorney who has represented three detainees, said the public has a skewed view of who is held there.

"The biggest misconception is that it's filled with al-Qaida terrorists," he said.

Khan is a poor farmer from near Kandahar, Afghanistan, and, like many other rural Afghans, doesn't know his actual birthdate. But he is in his 40s and has a family, who are desperate for him to return, Goodman said.

Though Khan is largely illiterate, the case against him centers on him supposedly once having an incriminating note containing information about explosive devices - but the note wasn't preserved by the government, Goodman said.

Goodman, who has been to Guantanamo four times, said the prisoners have none of the fundamental rights afforded to even those charged with murder in the U.S.

"Our [domestic] prisons are filled with people who have done all kinds of horrible things," said Moss, who has been to Washington 20 times to work on Guantanamo cases. "But the reality is we let most of those guys out, and we don't keep them under these kinds of conditions. They can be visited by their families. They can make phone calls. They're not tortured. . . . Most of these guys [in Guantanamo] are not accused of anything like that."

The panelists Saturday also called for a more transparent and fair justice system for the detainees there.

By Leeann Shelton, Staff Reporter,

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

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