Talal And Yasir Al-Zahrani | Prisoner 345 | My Six Years in Guantánamo

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There was a young prisoner from Saudi Arabia in the camp; his name was Yasir al-Zahrani. He spent five years in Guantánamo, during which time he was tortured mercilessly and eventually died under mysterious circumstances, his body returned to his family and buried in Medina, where he was from.

An investigation into the death of Yasir and two other prisoners (one was Saudi and the other Yemeni) was held and Rear Admiral Harry Harris, camp commander, reported that the three deaths had been suicides, although nobody believed it.

Yasir’s father, Abu Talal al-Zahrani, was a Brigadier-General in the Saudi police force. He told me his son had been kidnapped by a group in Afghanistan who sold him to the Americans. In a voice he could barely control, he said: “They returned him to me in a box, in pieces.”

Abu Talal absolutely refused the Pentagon narrative that his son had taken his own life. He told me of a young, dynamic man, a Hafiz of the Quran, who had gone to Afghanistan to spread the message of Islam. He had been arrested and taken by the Americans, never to be seen again.

He said his son had taught him a lesson, “The important thing is the truth, to confirm that the Americans arrested, tortured and killed Yasir, and they didn’t obtain any information from him or the others. In the end, nothing was gained. The file on the death of the three in mysterious circumstances is still open. This wasn’t suicide, there are still questions.”

The bodies of Yasir and the other Saudi man were repatriated to Saudi Arabia, of course, and the Yemeni man was returned to Yemen for burial. There, Alkarama arranged for an autopsy on his body which found that he hadn’t died by hanging and that there were parts and organs missing from his body. I told Abu Talal about this and that he should follow up with the Yemeni organisation to bring those responsible to justice.

Abu Talal did follow up, especially as the pathologists in Saudi Arabia confirmed that there was no point autopsying his son’s body because of the missing organs. He worked through his pain and collaborated with a Norwegian filmmaker to make a film about his son; it aired on Al Jazeera in English and Arabic. On June 30, 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed “Al-Zahrani vs Rumsfeld” at the Washington, DC, appeals court to seek justice for Yasir.

 

About the Author: Sami Alhaj

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