Ahmed Errachidi was a London chef. He was seized, rendered to Bagram and tortured, then held in Guantánamo Bay for five years.
A false confession was extracted from him during a severe psychotic episode. After Reprieve exposed the absurd allegations made against him, Ahmed was released on 24 April 2007.
Reprieve first visited Ahmed in Guantánamo in 2004 after successfully gaining access to the prison. We fought for his release until he was finally freed in 2007.
“I want to thank everyone at Reprieve for working so tirelessly for me, and for everyone else in Guantanamo Bay. I want to thank all the people who supported me from Britain. I received 283 letters from people in Britain, 283 beautiful letters that gave me so much hope. I am particularly grateful to the mothers and fathers who let their young children write to me and send me the little cards they had drawn, as it was a constant reminder of my own two young boys. I am very sorry not to have written back to each and every person, but I was treated very, very badly in Guantanamo, they held me in isolation for months on end, and I did not even have a pen”
After working as a London chef for eighteen years, Ahmed travelled to Morocco to take care of his youngest son Imran, who needed an urgent heart operation. He could not afford to pay for treatment so he sank all his savings into a new business venture. Ahmed hoped that the profits from his silver jewelry business would pay for his son’s medical care. While in Pakistan, Ahmed found himself moved by the plight of the Afghan refugees and wanted to help. Ahmed is bipolar and saw the incredibly dangerous situation as completely possible and necessary.
‘I entered Afghanistan to help the poor children and the women and to partake in their calamity, to taste what they tasted, to fear as they feared, and to be hungry as they were hungry.’
Ahmed quickly realised how dangerous the situation in Afghanistan was and returned to Pakistan, but was seized and handed over to US forces. The Americans took him to Bagram airbase and tortured him for nineteen days. He was falsely accused of being Osama bin Laden’s general and rendered to Guantánamo Bay.
Ahmed became a leading force in the prisoner protests against the abusive Guantánamo regime. As a result he was held in punishing isolation in Camp Delta for almost three years – the longest period served in isolation by any Guantánamo prisoner.
Ahmed had another breakdown while in detention. The military ignored his psychotic state and continued to interrogate him. When asked whether he knew bin Laden, Ahmed indignantly assured them that he was bin Laden’s superior officer. The interrogators wrote it down, and passed it on. They did not pass on that he also told them that a large snowball was about to envelop the earth, and that the officers should warn their families to make their peace with God. Reprieve showed how absurd the allegations against Ahmed were, and embarrassed the authorities into returning him to Morocco.
“Ahmed’s case is an exhibit of everything that is wrong with Guantanamo Bay. The US military relied on false intelligence, saying Ahmed was the ‘General’ of al Qaeda when he was only a chef from London. The US said Ahmed was training terrorists in Afghanistan at a time when he was cooking in a London hotel. When Ahmed was suffering from a mental breakdown in prison the US military continued to interrogate him. When the British government could have helped prove his innocence, they remained supine. When Ahmed asked to come back to England, where he worked for 18 years, the British government refused him the most basic humanitarian assistance. We can only hope that Ahmed gets his life back, with his children, and that the British government develops a back bone such that it stands up for the moral principles that should be its lodestar.”
Clive Stafford Smith
Since his release, Ahmed has written a wonderful book ‘The General: The ordinary man who challenged Guantánamo’ with a foreword by Clive Stafford Smith re-counting his experiences in Guantánamo.
Reprieve are delighted to announce that within the last 24 hours Ahmed Errachidi has been reunited with his family after being held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay for over five years. He was released last Thursday and transferred to Morocco where he was held in police custody before appearing before a judge this Wednesday. All charges against him were dropped and he was released and reunited with his family.