Guant?namo

GUANT?NAMO….Abdullah Mujahid is a detainee at Guant?namo who pleaded innocent and called four witnesses from Afghanistan to testify at his hearing. After several months, the tribunal president said they couldn’t be found. Apparently no one looked very hard:

The Guardian searched for Mr Mujahid’s witnesses and found them within three days. One was working for President Hamid Karzai. Another was teaching at a leading American college. The third was living in Kabul. The fourth, it turned out, was dead. Each witness said he had never been approached by the Americans to testify in Mr Mujahid’s hearing.

….In the military tribunal Mr Mujahid protested his innocence. He enjoyed good relations with American soldiers and had been promoted, not fired, he said. The three living witnesses he requested were easily located with a telephone, an internet connection and a few days work.

….The witnesses largely corroborated Mr Mujahid’s story, with some qualifications. Mr Jalali, the former interior minister, said Mr Mujahid had been fired over allegations of corruption and bullying – not for attacking the government. Mr Haider, the former defence official, said Mr Mujahid had contributed 30 soldiers to a major operation against al-Qaida in March 2002. “He is completely innocent,” he said.

Look. Guant?namo isn’t an easy issue. The whole question of how best to handle detainees isn’t an easy issue. Plenty of the inmates at Guant?namo are genuinely dangerous people, and we can hardly afford to let them go free just because we don’t have Perry Mason standards of evidence against them. There just aren’t simple answers to this.

But the evidence has mounted for years that many of the detainees at Guant?namo were picked up randomly in Afghanistan or turned over for reward in Pakistan, and are being held with essentially no evidence at all. See here and here for more. In Mujahid’s case, we were dealing with a former police chief in Gardez, not some random guy picked up on a battlefield, and yet we still claimed we couldn’t find any of the witnesses he asked for.

I think most of the world understands perfectly well the dilemma we face in handling these guys. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that we don’t even seem to be trying to figure out who belongs in custody and who’s just a mistake. That’s why Guant?namo is a disgrace.

UPDATE: Ah, I see that this same story ran in the Boston Globe a couple of weeks ago. Oddly enough, it was co-written by the same guy who wrote the Guardian’s version.