By: E&P Staff
The United States should release Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj from its military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, as a Ramadan gesture, the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Thursday.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam, began Thursday.
Al Haj, a Sudanese citizen, has been held in Guantanamo as an “enemy combatant” since June 13, 2002. He was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 on his way to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for the Arabic news network.
His British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, is to visit Al-Haj Sept. 26, RSF said. Smith said he is in poor physical and psychological health. In a 2006 BBC interview, Smith said Al-Haj claims to have been beaten and sexually assaulted at Guantanamo. Al-Haj staged a hunger strike in January.
RSF called for Al-Haj’s immediate release.
“Ramadan is traditionally the month of self-denial and forgiveness and for
the individual to confront his own humanity, but how much humanity remains when someone is detained arbitrarily and deprived of all contact with his family for more than five years?” RSF said in a statement. “And what remains of the rule of law, when a prisoner is denied a fair trial, denied treatment and tortured? The Al-Haj case is a legal scandal, as is the Guantanamo prison camp itself.”
Al-Haj has been “adopted” under RSF sponsorship by four Spanish news organizations — La Sexta; IPS-Comunica; La Voz del Occidente; and Colexio de Xornalistas de Galicia – plus six Canadian media: Corriere Canadese; Atlas Media; Magazine de Saint-Lambert; Mouton Noir; CIBL; and Radio Canada Sudbury.