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article imageOp-Ed: Who is prisoner 345?

By kurtrat     May 30, 2007 in World
Sami Al-Hajj is prisoner 345 at the U.S. Detainment Center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been on a hunger strike since January 7, 2007. He is a cameraman for Al Jazeera.
Sami Al-Hajj, prisoner 345, was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001. He was travelling with a legitimate visa to work in Afghanistan for Al Jazeera as a cameraman. He is being held as an "enemy combatant."
The clock is ticking: as I write this, Sami has been held in Guantanamo for 1812 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes and 24 seconds.
Sami Al-Hajj is an Al Jazeera journalist. He was born in Sudan. He has been in Guantanamo for over five years without trial. He was arrested while working on assignment, reporting on the war in Afghanistan.
Sami has a wife and a now 6-year-old son. It took 18 months for Sami's wife to find out where he was from the Red Cross. She had thought he was dead.
It appears that the U.S. military grabbed Sami because they believed he had been the cameraman at an interview with Osama bin Laden. This was not the case. Even if it had been the case, isn't that a legitimate job for a journalist? The U.S. military will not comment on this.
Even though they learned he had not been at the interview, the U.S. military took Sami to Bagram Airforce Base in January, 2002. He was abused there. Then he was taken to Kandahar where, according to the "Prisoner 345: Campaign to free Sami Al-Hajj" website, U.S. MPs pulled out the hairs of his beard one at a time.
"He was kneel for long periods on cold concrete... He was beaten many times. An MP stuck a finger up his anus, and another said to Sami, 'I want to f**k you.' The Qu'ran was thrown in the toilet in front of him."In Guantanamo Bay, no formal charges were filed against Sami. He has been interrogated over 100 times. Sami claims that his interrogators were only interested in trying to get him to be a witness against Al Jazeera, to say that Al Jazeera is partially funded and run by Al Qaeda.
Sami's London-based attorney Clive Stafford Smith says that "There is no evidence that Sami has committed any crime. Sami is no more a terrorist than my grandmother."
Sami is currently suffering from several serious health problems. He is denied his medication for throat cancer; his right knee-cap was broken and he has not had an operation for this; he has rheumatism and problems with his teeth.
Now Sami is being force-fed by the U.S. military. Sami has said: "Give me a fair trial or freedom, and I'll eat."
The governments of Sudan and Qatar, Al Jazeera, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and the Sudanese Union of Journalists are calling for Sami's immediate release.
According to an article by Al Jazeera, Sami is being force-fed through his nose. Because of his hunger strike, prison guards have taken away his "comfort" items, such as soap, toothpaste, prayer beads, bed sheets, eyeglasses, a knee brace and books.
On the "Prisoner 345" website, the time of Sami's incarceration continues to tick away...
More about Sami hajj, Guantanamo bay, Jazeera cameraman
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