7th Detainee Dies at Guantanamo

Awal Gul, a 48 year old detainee at Guantanamo, has died. The Pentagon says he suffered a heart attack in the shower after exercising on an elliptical machine. Its press release is here.

Gul is the 7th detainee to die at Guantanamo. Five committed suicide (according to the Pentagon) and one died of colon cancer

The Center for Constitutional Rights responds here. His public defenders, W. Matthew Dodge and Brian Mendelsohn, call the press release outrageous. Here's their statement: [More...]

Awal Gul passed away on February 1, 2011, from an apparent heart attack, although we have no way of knowing whether the government is telling us the truth. It is ironic that Mr. Gul may have died doing the very thing that many middle-aged Americans so every day: exercising. Among the government's three categories of Guantanamo prisoners -- court prosecution, cleared for release, or indefinite detention -- I am sorry to say he was in the last category. Mr. Gul was kind, philosophical, devout, and hopeful to the end, in spite of all that our government has put him through. He was in American custody from December 25, 2001, until now. The government charged that he was a prominent member of the Taliban and its military, but we proved that this is false. Indeed, we have documents from Afghanistan, even a letter from Mullah Omar himself on Taliban letterhead, discussing Mr. Gul's efforts to resign from the Taliban a year or more before 9/11/01.

He resigned because he was disgusted by the Taliban's growing penchant for corruption and abuse. Mr. Gul was never an enemy of the United States in any way.

It is shame that the government will finally fly him home not in handcuffs and a hood, but in a casket. It is also a shame that Mr. Gul sat imprisoned for years while the Congress including Democrats and Republicans), two Presidents (Democratic and Republican), the federal courts, the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice failed to show the maturity and leadership necessary to resolve Mr. Gul's case. He deserved a better. His family, including his many children and grandchildren, deserved better.

Mr. Gul's enduring hope for Afghanistan, and even the United States forces in Afghanistan, is captured in an Afghan proverb he quoted to me more than once: "You cannot wash blood with blood."

The Department of Defense's press release earlier today is outrageous for a couple reasons. The government, through this post-death statement, makes claims more outlandish even than the government lawyers in Mr. Gul's habeas case. We now hear for the very first time in the nearly 10 years since Mr. Gul's arrest, that (1) he operated a guesthouse for Al-Qaida members, and (2) that he admitted providing bin Laden operational support on several occasions. Over the course of almost 3 years in court, the government has never provided any evidence at all to support this slander. Neither Mr. Gul nor any credible witness has ever said such things. Indeed, this is why the government placed Mr. Gul in the group of prisoners set for "indefinite detention;" it admitted that it lacked any credible evidence to prove its suspicions in a court of law. The government never even made these claims until now, when Mr. Gul is not alive to defend himself.

Beginning in the early 1980's, Mr. Gul was a member of local forces who were allied with the United States against the Soviets. From 1989-1996, he continued to run the local weapons depot in his hometown, not unlike a police commander, which he used to keep the peace. In 1996, the Taliban swept through eastern Afghanistan and took over his city at the barrel of a gun. Mr. Gul was given two options: flee with your family to Pakistan or stay home and operate the depot at the command of the Taliban. It must be remembered that the Taliban was initially greeted warmly by many Afghans, and even the American government, as a source of hope. Mr. Gul stayed home. The Taliban soon proved themselves to be as corrupt and abusive as we can imagine. Mr. Gul discovered this change over time and resigned from the Taliban more than one year before September 11, 2001. He was arrested in December 2001 when he voluntarily traveled to meet American military officials. He had nothing to hide then and has nothing to hide now. We shared all the evidence from Afghanistan that proves his innocence with the government and the federal court. Justice will now come too late for Mr. Gul.

W. Matthew Dodge
Federal Defender Program, Inc.
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    Wow... (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 05:37:30 PM EST
    they tore the DOD press release to shreds...and rightly so.  Never had the courage to air the charges against the departed in a courtroom, to his face and the public, yet speaking ill of the dead.

    This tragic reminder from Gitmo, the Egypt reminder, usual domestic nonsense...it feels like Shame Week on Discovery Channel.  Glad I did my taxes already, it would sting right now.

    Care to Guess... (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by ScottW714 on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:15:02 PM EST
    ... how many mainstream medias released both press releases ?  I can't bring myself to find out. 'just another dead terrorist mastermind' is what American will know.

    I don't know what's worse, finding out that I've been duped by the party I believed was more principled to let this non-sense continue.  Or to know, basic human principles are no longer a priority with either ruling party.


    The government apparently feels free to (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 05:50:03 PM EST
    say whatever it wants about those who cannot defend themselves; I don't know how we can lay claim to being a beacon of freedom and democracy and continue to treat people like this.

    We all deserve better (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by ruffian on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 06:03:08 PM EST
    It is also a shame that Mr. Gul sat imprisoned for years while the Congress including Democrats and Republicans), two Presidents (Democratic and Republican), the federal courts, the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice failed to show the maturity and leadership necessary to resolve Mr. Gul's case. He deserved better.

    Very moving letter, and a good reminder that as we call for justice in Egypt we still don't hafe it here. There is simply no excuse.

    Very sad for him.

    So his lawyers doubt the veracity of the (none / 0) (#1)
    by beefeater on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 05:23:29 PM EST
    Obama administration?

    Is it any wonder that most people think that 98% of all lawyers give the other 2% a bad name?

    "98%" ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Yman on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 09:15:10 PM EST
    There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.

    ~Rex Stout

    See also: the three kinds of falsehoods ... (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Peter G on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 09:34:50 PM EST
    As my brother, a loyal and decorated marine, says (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 05:31:18 PM EST
    "We HAVE get rid of that place."  And he just shakes his head, disgusted and demoralized every time it comes up.  

    To, to, to (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 05:33:13 PM EST
    We have TO get rid of that place.  


    Proofreading is your friend.  

    I try to proofread sometimes (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 12:07:34 AM EST
    Because I only try, and because it is only sometimes, my humanity shows too :)

    Is is normal for countries at war to release (none / 0) (#10)
    by kramartini on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 09:25:44 AM EST
    enemy prisoners before the end of hostilities?