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How one detainee got trapped in legal limbo at Guantanamo

May 8th, 2013
11:18 AM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

The vast majority of the 166 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay say they would rather starve than spend another day in limbo.

One of the more than 100 men now on hunger strike is an Afghan man in his early thirties, known only as Obaidullah – a prisoner with no charges filed against him.

His only daughter was born just two days before he was taken into custody. She'll be eleven this summer, and has never met her father.

In March, Obaidullah wrote a detailed account of his hunger strike, which the U.S. Department of Justice recently declassified.

"I'm losing all hope because I've been imprisoned at Guantanamo for almost eleven years now, and I still do not know my fate," he wrote. 

RELATED: Is it medically ethical to force-feed Guantanamo detainees?

Captain Jason Wright is a U.S. Army officer, who is the military's version of a court-appointed lawyer, working inside the system to defend Obaidullah.

Capt. Wright told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that he’s been informed that there are no plans to bring charges against Obaidulla for the foreseeable future. Obaidullah is facing the prospect of “indefinite detention” – legal limbo with no exit on the horizon.

In 2002, Obaidullah was living with his family in the Afghan province of Khost.

In the nighttime hours, U.S. forces raided Obaidullah’s home. According to Capt. Wright, the raid was based on intelligence from a single source that Obaidullah may have been part of a bomb cell and involved with landmines built near his home.

The U.S. Government account claims that there were approximately 20 land mines located near his family's compound – mines the government connected Obaidullah to. The government also claims that he had a notebook with him at the time of his capture that had some sort of rudimentary diagrams of land mines.

Obaidullah was taken into custody by U.S. forces and held at various prisons within Afghanistan. The U.S. eventually sent him to Guantanamo Bay in October 2002.

Capt. Wright said a recent Defense Department investigation categorizes the landmines near that home in Afghanistan as Soviet grade and exonerates Obaidullah.

“It calls into question a lot of the single source intelligence against him,” Capt. Wright said.

Obaidullah’s condition is worsening as the hunger strike goes on. Each time Wright sees Obaidullah, he has lost more weight.

“Obaidullah needs a day in court,” Wright said. “I think President Obama can work with President Karzai to come up with a good solution to send these men home. That's fully within his power, I believe, to do that, to work with the government, the legitimate government of Afghanistan, to send their citizens home. The same can be said of the other 86 detainees who have been cleared for release, who are innocent, who have done nothing wrong in terms of the American government.”

READ MORE: Guantanamo at a boiling point

Filed under:  Guantanamo • Latest Episode
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. chiedu uche okoye

    Guantanamo is long over due for closure

    May 12, 2013 at 7:51 am | Reply
  2. john

    you ask for freedom you get it , you ask for hunger you get it , and if you ask for troubles you get it and this guy asked for troubles he got it and we say enjoy

    May 12, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply
  3. abdullahi abdulaxix

    how could you just jail an inocent person for 20 years and you call that war against terrorism.

    May 12, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply

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