The first book published by a long-time Guantanamo Bay inmate that describes torture, humiliation and despair during 13 years in captivity was selling briskly in the US on Wednesday and drawing hard-won attention to his case.
Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s account from the US naval base in Cuba, Guantanamo Diary was published on Tuesday after a seven-year legal battle.
It recounts ice baths, degradation and myriad humiliations in a first-person telling of his interrogation during the US war on terrorism from a prisoner who has never been charged by the US with a crime and was ordered released by a US federal court in 2010. That order was later vacated and Slahi, 44, has continued to be held.
The book’s publication coincided with US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, seven years after the president vowed to close the prison in Cuba during his first year in office. Those efforts have been blocked by lawmakers who think the inmates pose a threat to US national security.
Slahi’s 466-page handwritten manuscript was initially classified by the US government and heavily redacted before publication.
“He’s an innocent man. He’s being detained unlawfully and he should be the one telling his story. Without censorship,” said Slahi’s lawyer, Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Guantanamo Diary was in the top 100 on Amazon’s bestsellers list and in Barnes & Noble’s top 50 on Wednesday.
“It’s only been on sale one day but my phone is ringing off the hook about it, so it’s obviously reaching people the way we want it to,” Hachette Book Group publicist Liz Garriga said.
Hachette is the parent company of the book’s publisher Little, Brown and Co.
Shamsi said Slahi’s ordeal is more proof that torture does not work. She cited an excerpt in which he describes his interrogators as telling him: “All you have to say is ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I don’t remember’ and we’ll fuck you.”
Slahi’s family held a news conference in London pleading for his release on Tuesday as the book came out in Britain. Several celebrities, including actors Stephen Fry and Colin Firth, recorded excerpts of the book that were posted online.
Fry read Slahi’s depiction of his treatment outside of the Guantanamo detention center at the hands of fellow Arabs following directions from the US: “They stuffed the air between my clothes and me with ice cubes from the neck to my ankles and whenever the ice melted, they put in new, hard ice cubes. Every once in a while one of the guards smashed me most of the time in the face.”
Slahi, of Mauritania, said he turned himself in to authorities there weeks after the 2001 attacks and was taken to Jordan, where he was interrogated for several months before being sent to Afghanistan and to Cuba, according to transcripts of his US military tribunal proceedings.
Slahi was described by the 9/11 Commission “a significant al-Qaeda operative” who helped arrange for the Hamburg cell members — including two Sept. 11 hijackers and the roommate of a third, Mohamed Atta, — to travel to Afghanistan for training.
Pentagon spokesman for Guantanamo affairs Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins said Slahi’s case is being relitigated.
In the book, Slahi describes his relief in July 2002, despite having been stripped naked, at the thought of a transfer to the US.
“Around my private parts, one of the team wrapped a diaper. Only then, I was dead sure that the plane was heading to the US. Now I started to convince myself that ‘everything’s gonna be alright,’” he wrote.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
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