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30 Mar, 2013 01:57

‘Obama must be thinking he has better things to do than tend to 166 Arabs stuck in Gitmo’

Obama, the one person with the authority to shut down Guantanamo, lacks the political will to put the issue at the top of his priorities, Thomas Wilner, an attorney representing Gitmo inmates, told RT.

RT:Why do you think the White House isn’t getting more involved here, it seems reluctant to put a stop to this?

Thomas Wilner: The White House has said that it is still interested in closing the Guantanamo but it has delegated the issue to other people. It has also thrown up its hands and said Congress is stopping us from doing anything. I think that is wrong. I think the White House has to get directly involved.

RT:It could make noise. How can it get more involved?

TW: Well, let me draw it in perspective. The woman you’ve just talked to who is down at Guantanamo, talking about her client about the White House improving the conditions in Guantanamo but what is really wrong and the real cause of this hunger strike is the absolute desperation and despair of these people. She said that 86 people down there, more than half of the people, 86 of them have been cleared over three years.

These are innocent people who are continued to be held. My former clients are innocent people who are wrongly held. The President can get in and make sure that those people are released and sent home. They do not pose a danger. Those people are desperate. They want to die.

RT:Even if he does not think that he has the political capital to do that, surely there are some legal ways to force their release?

TW: The shame of this is, we have won the cases in Guantanamo. We won the Supreme Court cases saying that these people are entitled to the rule of law and to have a review of their detention.  They’ve now had their review and the President has reviewed them and the 86 of them have been cleared.  But the US courts have no authority to release someone who is in Guantanamo. They are in the hands of the President. The President has the authority to do it. Congress has said he could do it only with difficulty but he has the authority to do it

RT:What is the gain of keeping these people incarcerated as they are?

TW: There is no gain in doing it from an overall sense. I think from a political sense, the President of the United States says, 'I have a lot of important things to do and taking care of 166 Arabs who happened to be stuck in Guantanamo is not the thing I want to put at the top of my priorities.'

RT:How is it covered in America and what is the public opinion about it?

TW: I want to congratulate you for covering it. Nobody in the US has been covering Guantanamo for the past three years. If you talk to people in the United States, they simply don’t know about Guantanamo. They do not know today that 86 out of 166 people down there are innocent, have been cleared, have already been cleared. Many of the others are also innocent. They don’t know that the people in Guantanamo weren’t picked up on a battlefield. They were sold for bounties by Northern Alliance people. They do not know these facts anymore because there is no more coverage in the United States. I congratulate you for covering it.

RT:So what is the future for these people now? What do you think is going to happen?

TW: Well the immediate future is probably that the US will try to make some accommodation in conditions to stop the terrible hunger strike and the threat to these people’s lives.  And clearly, I hope that the conditions improve so that these people will begin eating again, that my clients won’t die, that innocent man won’t die to protest. But more importantly, there’s got to be pressure on the administration to step in and solve this. Put somebody in charge of closing Guantanamo, relocating these people.  There is a rehabilitation center set up in Kuwait that can be used, Saudi Arabia.

RT:Do you think we could have a conversation on what could have been done in a year’s time?

TW: I hope not. I hope not. I hope the people would stand up and scream and get this place closed. These people are innocent and they should get out of there.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.