Fayiz Al Kandari is one of two Kuwaitis still held in the controversial prison and he says he is innocent.
A lawsuit has accused Kuwait of conspiring with the US to torture prisoners [EPA]
Fayiz Al Kandari is one of two Kuwaitis still held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 2001, before the attacks of September 11, he said he left Kuwait to travel to Afghanistan to help with the reconstruction of two wells and to repair a mosque. His family said he made the trip because his mother had cancer at the time, and Al Kandari hoped his good deeds would bring blessings from Allah. He was 24-years-old at the time.
Following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Al Kandari said he was imprisoned by the Northern Alliance who then probably sold him to US forces in Afghanistan. He was held in Kandahar and Bagram US military bases before he was sent to Guantanamo. He says he has been tortured at all three locations.
Sometime early in his detention, in a Red Cross letter, Al Kandari told his family that he had been interrogated, but that the American investigators had found nothing against him. “If the construction of a mosque…or the digging of a well is the sin that makes me a detainee, then I willingly accept my detention.” Al Kandari thought he would soon be free. He was wrong. Al Kandari, it is believed, has been marked for indefinite detention.
In 2008, military commission charges were issued against Al Kandari. He was accused of giving material support to terrorism and conspiracy to materially support terrorism. The issuance of those charges triggered the assignment of military counsel. Lt. Col. Barry Wingard was the Judge Advocate Lawyer assigned to defend Al Kandari.
Charges against Al Kandari have now been dropped, but Wingard continues to represent and visit Al Kandari in Guantanamo. The other remaining Kuwaiti prisoner Fawzi Al Odah, who also said he went to Afghanistan for charitable reasons, has never been charged with a crime and therefore was not assigned a military lawyer. However, US officials have allowed Wingard to visit Al Odah in the past, but he is no longer permitted to do so.
Neither Kuwaiti prisoner has had a trial to determine if they are guilty, and none is scheduled. They have filed habeas corpus petitions challenging their detention, but these petitions have been denied.
I gave Wingard questions to ask Al Kandari during his most recent trip to Guantanamo. I limited my questions for Al Kandari because Wingard is not allowed to bring any written material to his meetings with Al Kandari.
This is what Al Kandari had to say as he prepares to enter his 11th year in detention.
How do you pass the time in Guantanamo Bay?
Al Kandari: ”I pray, I read the Qur’an, I work out two hours every day, and I socialize with other prisoners. Because of the insignificant medical care in Guantanamo Bay, I cannot afford being ill. I am already plagued with serious medical conditions such as permanent damage in my cervical spine. Therefore, I regularly practice physical exercise to boost my immune system and to prevent the onset of any disease. The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] has done a poor job in effectively helping the prisoners. For example, the ICRC provides each prisoner with a phone call to their parents once every six to eight weeks instead of once every four weeks.”
According to Al Kandari, his damaged spine is a result of abuse by prison guards known as the Immediate Reaction Force. In the past, a Department of Defense spokesperson has said that the DoD mandates that all prison operations meet high humane standards. Further laws, policies, procedures and training have been updated to ensure for the respect of the prisoners. Both Al Kandari and Al Odah have complained about the lack of proper medical attention they receive in Guantanamo. “The whole population is getting older and they receive only basic treatment for conditions they experienced when being mistreated,” Wingard said. Khaled Al Odah said his son has some health concerns. Fawzi Al Odah appears to have gastrointestinal problems and he is rather skinny. The younger Al Odah also now needs glasses, which he did not wear before.
What is your relationship like with the guards and other prisoners? Read the rest of this entry »