An appeal for Sudanese prisoner Mustafa Ibrahim Al Hassan, an innocent man in Guantánamo

September 2, 2008

Image of a prison cell window with bars

Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers represent over 30 prisoners in Guantánamo, today calls on the Sudanese government to exert diplomatic pressure on the US government to secure the release of Sudanese prisoner Mustafa Ibrahim Mustafa Al Hassan from Guantánamo.

The 51-year old father of four – two boys and two girls – has been held at Guantánamo since August 2002, even though there has never been any basis whatsoever for his imprisonment.

Mustafa travelled to Pakistan in 2002, to study his religion and to seek out business opportunities, and was seized at a checkpoint by opportunistic Pakistani soldiers who were aware that the US authorities were offering bounty rewards for Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects and that foreign visitors were easy prey.

Despite the fact that he had nothing whatsoever to do with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and that he was one of many innocent men seized in Pakistan without ever having set foot in Afghanistan, he reported that he was treated brutally in Pakistan custody.

“When the investigators were interrogating me”, he said, “when I told them I went there to trade and I went there to study, they hit me, they tortured me. They were torturing us with electricity and they made us walk on sharp objects. They hit us a lot, and because of the pain we just said anything.”

Mustafa has also suffered horribly in Guantánamo, and has been beset by medical problems since his arrival at the prison. For years he complained about stomach pains, but received no treatment. Then, in 2007, medical tests revealed the cause of the pain – a stomach ulcer that required immediate surgery. Mustafa was gravely concerned. He had already had his spleen removed while he was still a free man. He had also been suffering liver pain while in Guantánamo. The surgery was a success, but blood samples showed he was also suffering from liver disease, although the US military would not tell him how advanced his illness was.

After years spent maintaining his innocence, Mustafa was cleared for release from Guantánamo in [date], after a military review board realized that he was not a threat to the United States or its allies, including Sudan. However, despite the fact that his health continues to deteriorate, he remains in Guantánamo, cruelly overlooked, even as his compatriots have been freed.

Last December, he was left behind after Adel Hassan Hamad and Salim Adem, two other innocent Sudanese prisoners seized in Pakistan, were released. Earlier this year, he was told that he would soon be released, but in May, when Al Jazeera journalist Sami Al Haj and two other men – Amir Yacoub Al Amir and Walid Mohammed Ali – were also released, he was, inexplicably, left behind yet again.

These disappointments, added to his grave illness and the pain of separation from his family, have brought Mustafa to the point of despair. As Zachary Katznelson, Reprieve’s Legal Director, explains, “Mustafa is a family man, but it is almost impossible to be a father from Guantánamo Bay. Mustafa is not allowed any phone calls. Mail takes months and months to arrive. When it does arrive, it is usually heavily censored, even if it contains only family news. Still, he thinks about his children all the time. He wants to protect his children as much as possible from the reality of having their father locked up so far away.”

“My children should not have to bear these troubles,” Mustafa told Zachary Katznelson during a visit at Guantánamo. “They should not feel sadness or depression, but should be allowed to be children. But, their father has been taken away.”

Mustafa seeks only one thing: the chance to defend himself, to have a fair trial. Zachary Katznelson reports that, at the end of one of his meetings at Guantánamo, Mustafa, who had his hands shackled together, and his feet shackled to the floor, looked at him and said, “I am innocent. I didn’t do a thing to hurt anyone. All I want is to be home with my children.”


Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’


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