Guantanamo detainees finally get their day in court

By Agencies
27 May 2008

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Detainees at the US Military Prison in Guantánamo will finally get their day in court today (Tuesday) after a direct action by campaigners.

35 Americans from cities and towns across the country will go on trial for a protest at the US Supreme Court on January 11, 2008. They face charges of either “unlawful free speech” or “causing a harangue” or both. But in a new twist on traditional protest, the 35 activists will enter their names as those of actual Guantánamo inmates.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, as well as fines and court fees.

On January 11th, they were arrested without their own identification and were taken into custody under the name of a Guantánamo prisoner.

This act symbolically grants the Guantánamo prisoners their day in court-- which the Pentagon has denied them for years.

Father Bill Pickard, a Catholic priest is one of the defendants. But he will be tried “as” Faruq Ali Ahmed, a Guantánamo detainee.

“I went to the Supreme Court to make a simple plea that the inhumane treatment and actual torture of inmates at Guantánamo Bay stop,” says Fr Pickard. “I went to bring the name and the humanity of Faruq Ali Ahmed — who claims he travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 simply to teach the Koran to children and that he has no affiliation with the Taliban or Al Qaeda — before the law. He cannot do it himself, so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law and my conscience to do it for him.”

Among the defendants is a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, a social worker from Saratoga Springs, New York, and a legal secretary from Baltimore.

Representing themselves, the defendants plan on justifying their acts as upholding US law and international human rights and will call witnesses to document the abuses at Guantánamo.

Witness Against Torture will hold two events related to the trial. Dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, those facing trial will carry their Guantánamo inmates' names from the US Supreme Court to the DC Superior Court where their cases will be heard.

A press conference will also be held outside the Superior Court where defendants and witnesses will address the media.

They will also hold a ceremony of justice, expressing their demand that the rights and humanity of the detainees be respected by placing placards bearing the detainees' names alongside copies of the US Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and the sacred texts of various religious traditions.

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