Gitmo military attorney: ‘The fact that my client still happens to be breathing is mostly trivial’
RT:Is this situation as desperate as it’s been
Barry Wingard: Well I can tell you first hand. Greetings
from Guantanamo Bay - America’s offshore prison camp. I’ve had
meetings with my client all this week and we’ll have another
meeting with him tomorrow. As I told you when I was in the station
on Saturday the official story was there was no hunger strike. Then
it involved seven people, then it involved 14, 21, it wasn’t the
largest strike, 24, 25, 26, and today they’re reporting that 32 are
involved in the hunger strike. So their story is getting more
accurate and in conformity with what I told you then. The hunger
strike started the first week in February and it involves the vast
majority of prisoners. So they’re coming more online as we go. The
whole concept that prisoners are joining this hunger strike is not
true. In fact I told you that it’s the vast majority.
RT:What is your client’s condition like?
BW: I’ve never seen him thinner in all of my five years
of coming to Guantanamo Bay. I’ve been to Guantanamo Bay more than
50 times. I mean, he’s forgetful and he’s in a bad physical
condition. He’s hard to focus, he complains of headaches, he’s
weak. He went from 147 pounds down to 107 pounds so he’s lost
one-third of his body weight and he continues to lose
RT:Is he prepared to die?
BW: That’s something that he’s going to have to decide. I can’t advise you on whether or not he’s prepared to die but I can tell you that after eleven and a half years of waiting to face charges and an opportunity to defend himself that yes it’s very hopeless here in Guantanamo Bay. Especially in light of the fact that there is no movement in any way shape or form to get any of the 166 individuals out of here. Even the 86 cleared individuals are in no way any process of being released from here so there is complete desperation here.
RT:Is he also concerned about the conditions? We
heard last week that the Koran, for example, was being abused by
the prison guards, what else is driving him to these
BW: I think the Koran is the fuel that started the fire
but I think overall there is a complete desperation. My client,
Faiz al-Kandari, is a Kuwaiti. Kuwait is the strongest ally that
the United States has in the Middle East. Kuwait, at the behest of
the Bush administration, built a rehabilitation center to try to
get its sons home. The rehabilitation center cost $40 million.
There’s 13,000 American soldiers stationed in Kuwait and Kuwait
routinely purchases billions of dollars in American hardware. If
he’s not going home at the Behest of the leader of Kuwait then who
is going home? There is nothing in the works to send him back to
the $40 million rehabilitation center that was constructed
specifically for two individuals in Kuwait. You can imagine how
difficult it is for the Yemenis and other individuals who come from
places where it’s more difficult to return them to.
RT:How do you explain that he’s still confined? Why are you failing to get him out?
BW: I can tell you that we have been robbed of all
process, I mean my client has been here at Guantanamo Bay for
eleven and a half years. We were told that we would get military
commissions. We don’t even have charges let alone an opportunity to
get him out. I represent him only because the former
administration, the Bush administration, was at least willing to
give him a trial or at least try. But as it stands now he has no
charges for me to defend. I can’t go to a judge, I can’t call the
State Department. It’s complete, complete frustration.
RT:If he dies what will it have achieved?
BW:My client today said it best, ‘I died back when
President Obama declared indefinite detention.’ Indefinite
detention is the concept that men will languish in animal cages for
the rest of their lives without ever having an opportunity to
defend themselves. Now when the leader of a country comes out and
says ‘Indefinite detention will be applied to Guantanamo Bay.’
Well, that’s when you die. The fact that he still happens to be
breathing is mostly trivial.
RT:If that happens will there be a reaction from the
media or US authorities that something will be done?
BW: I don’t see any movement in Washington DC. I think
there’s a consensus, what I’m seeing, that these are 166 disposable
individuals – cleared, not cleared, from Kuwait, from countries
that we support: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia. These
people have all demanded their sons back. If it turns out that
people begin to die here then yes I do think that it will turn into
a different phase but I just hope it doesn’t come to the fact that
people need to die or to starve for justice.
RT:What do you say to the people who say inmates are there because they were a threat, or are a threat, to national security?
BW: I say that’s completely wrong. Guantanamo Bay held
779 prisoners from the start until today. Of those 779, over 600
have been released. Now keep in mind all 779 were subjected to
enhanced interrogation and treated very, very poorly. Their one
exposure to American prison systems. They come to Guantanamo Bay
and 600 of the 779 are released without explanation or an apology.
Of the population that’s in Guantanamo Bay’s 166, 86 more are
currently scheduled to be released. They are cleared. The United
States has acknowledged they did nothing. That puts us up to 700.
The military commissions, which favor the prosecutor, if they ever
get into effect - the best case scenario for the government – the
government promises they can do 30 total prosecutions out of 779
men in Guantanamo Bay. Now that’s a very, very low percentage in a
system that favors the prosecutor. So for those who say these men
are the worst of the worst? That is Bush-era talk that you should
not subscribe to. We tell the government of the United States: Put
up, give us a trial or send these men home. But you can’t demand
that they die passively in your offshore prison.