Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner released to Chad

June 11, 2009

Image of Mohammed el Gharani holding his baby

Reprieve is delighted that our client Mohammed el Gharani has been released from Guantánamo Bay to Chad after a seven-year ordeal that began when he was just 14 years old.

In January 2009, US Federal Judge Richard Leon reviewed the evidence against Mohammed and ordered his release, finding Mohammed is not and had never beenan enemy combatant. The US Government’s case had been built almost entirely on the word of two prison informants, both of whom the Judge found were unreliable.

Among the accusations was that Mohammed had been a member of an Al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998. In 1998, Mohammed was eleven years old, living with his family in Saudi Arabia. He had never left the country and spoke no English.

Mohammed El Gharani’s nightmarish ordeal began in Pakistan in 2001, when a mosque he was attending was raided by Pakistani security forces. He was arrested and turned over to the US military in Afghanistan.

He was held at the notorious Bagram Air Force Base, where he was subject to a range of abuses, including beatings and racist insults. After two months in prison in Afghanistan, Mohammed was flown to Guantánamo Bay.

There the abuse continued, as verified by a 2008 FBI report. Among other abuse, Mohammed was kept tightly shackled to the ground in a hunched position for hours, forcing him to urinate on himself. He was moved from cell to cell every few hours to prevent him from sleeping. He was subjected to repeated physical assaults. He was kept in freezing conditions, under prolonged strobe lights and was blasted with loud music for hours at a time. The entire time, racist slurs continued. Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: “It is great news that Mohammed has at last been released, but he will never get back the teenage years that were spent in Guantánamo based on shamefully shoddy intelligence. He was arrested while he was still a child and accused of offences in a city where he has never been. The idea that it took seven years and a federal judge to sort this out demonstrates just how failed an experiment Guantánamo Bay is.”

Reprieve Staff Attorney Cori Crider said: “Instead of spending his teenage years in school, Mohammed was forced to try to survive in a military prison. Never once did the US treat Mohammed like the child he was. Reprieve hopes that now he has been released, Mohammed will be able to get the education he was denied for so long and finally be able to rebuild his life.”

After taking office in January President Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year. Six months later, Mohammed el Gharani is only the seventh prisoner to be released on the new President’s watch. The first was Binyam Mohamed, another of Reprieve’s clients.


For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099.

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 Guantánamo 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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