Poet, prepared for release 3 times. Tortured. Clear for release. No charge or trial.
Towfiq Bihani has been held at Guantánamo Bay since early 2003. The US never charged him with a crime, and eight years ago in 2010, the Obama administration officially cleared him for release through a rigorous process requiring the unanimous agreement of six US security and defense agencies. Prison authorities prepared him for release three times, going so far as to provide him with his ‘release clothing.’ However, he remains detained.
Towfiq grew up in Saudi Arabia in a big family of 12 brothers and sisters. He is a big fan of European football and a prolific writer of poetry in English and Arabic.
Towfiq is one of the 119 men listed in the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA detention.Of those, he is among the group of 33 men subjected to the CIA’s ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’—a euphemism for torture.
This CIA detention and torture began in late 2002 when Towfiq was sold for a bounty to US forces, following on from five months of solitary confinement under Afghan forces. In his words:
“I was handcuffed behind and they put a hood on my head so that I could not see anything. When I entered the interrogation room, the American guards pushed me down to the ground… They started to cut my clothing with scissors. They undressed me completely and I was nude. I was afraid and because the guards were aiming their weapons towards me. The interrogator put his personal gun on my forehead threatening to kill me.
They started to hit me and strangle me, they would put a rope around my neck and say I was about to die. It was a very dark prison. They put me into a cell and kept me…tied to the wall for almost ten days. I had no idea whether it was day or night.”
After months of torture, US authorities rendered Towfiq to Guantánamo in early 2003.
Towfiq is represented by Reprieve and George M. Clarke, Partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP.
Illustration by @carysboughton
16 years since Guantanamo’s opening – all you need to know about America’s illegal prison, and the movement to close it.