'Outrageous': Guantánamo Prisoner Dies After Being Held for Nine Years Without Charge or Trial
by Andy Worthington
The Second World War lasted for six years, and at the end of it prisoners of war were released to resume their lives. At Guantánamo, on the other hand, the prison has just marked the ninth anniversary of its opening, and on Thursday the Pentagon announced that Awal Gul, a 48-year old Afghan prisoner, who had been held for nine years without charge or trial and was scheduled to be held forever, died in a shower after suffering a heart attack. Gul had never been held as a prisoner of war, and despite the US government’s assertions that he could be held forever, no one in a position of authority — neither President Bush nor President Obama — had never adequately demonstrated that he constituted a threat to the United States.
Despite what we ultimately know of his guilt or innocence, the sad and lonely death of Awal Gul, "in a place increasingly shorn of all hope, is a depressing indictment of the US government’s ongoing and apparently permanent inability to treat the men at Guantánamo with anything other than heartless disdain."
From what is known of Gul’s story, he had run a weapons depot in his home town in eastern Afghanistan, after the end of the Soviet occupation, and had then run it on behalf of the Taliban after their rise to power in 1996. However, in his tribunal at Guantánamo, as I explained in a profile of him two years ago:Gul said that he had resigned from the Taliban … and, in a volte-face that was typical of Afghan politics, had begun working with the pro-US warlord Hazrat Ali, one of three Afghan commanders who had fought at Tora Bora on the Americans’ behalf [Tora Bora being the site of a showdown, in December 2001, between al-Qaeda and senior Taliban supporters on the one hand, and a proxy Afghan army directed by US Special Forces on the other]. He explained that, on Ali’s advice, he handed himself in to Northern Alliance commanders in Kabul in February 2002, in an attempt to quell rumors about his involvement with the Taliban, but was then handed over to the Americans.
Whether there was any truth to this story had still not been clearly established after nine years, when, as Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a Guantánamo spokesman, explained, Gul had been working out on Tuesday night in Camp 6, and then “went to go take a shower and apparently collapsed in the shower.” Cmdr. Reese added, “Detainees on the cellblock then assisted him in getting to the guard station,” and from there he was taken to a clinic, and then to the Navy base hospital, which is some distance from the prison blocks, where he died despite “extensive life saving measures.”
Unlike the six other deaths at Guantánamo — the three heavily disputed deaths in June 2006, which appear to have involved a secret torture team operating in a secret facility outside Guantánamo’s main perimeter fence rather than the authorities’ claim that the men committed suicide simultaneously, two other alleged suicides in May 2007 and June 2009, and the death by cancer of an unrecognized hero of the anti-Taliban resistance in December 2007 — the death of Awal Gul at least appears straightforward.
-thanks to Common Dreams