Awal Gul, a man who like so many other countless thousands of men and women around the world was held for nearly nine years without trial, charge or even official arrest at America’s behest as part of the alleged “war on terror”, has died. The official cause: Heart attack during exercise. Pardon me if I say this sounds a little too much like “shot while trying to escape”.
His attorneys at the Federal Defenders Office, W. Matthew Dodge and Brian Mendelsohn, are dubious as well. Here’s their statement:
Awal Gul passed away on February 1, 2011, from an apparent heart attack,
although we have no way of knowing whether the government is telling us the
truth. It is ironic that Mr. Gul may have died doing the very thing that
many middle-aged Americans so every day: exercising. Among the
government’s three categories of Guantanamo prisoners — court prosecution,
cleared for release, or indefinite detention — I am sorry to say he was in
the last category. Mr. Gul was kind, philosophical, devout, and hopeful to
the end, in spite of all that our government has put him through. He was
in American custody from December 25, 2001, until now. The government
charged that he was a prominent member of the Taliban and its military, but
we proved that this is false. Indeed, we have documents from Afghanistan,
even a letter from Mullah Omar himself on Taliban letterhead, discussing
Mr. Gul’s efforts to resign from the Taliban a year or more before 9/11/01.
He resigned because he was disgusted by the Taliban’s growing penchant for
corruption and abuse. Mr. Gul was never an enemy of the United States in
any way. . . .
It is shame that the government will finally fly him home not in handcuffs
and a hood, but in a casket. It is also a shame that Mr. Gul sat
imprisoned for years while the Congress (including Democrats and
Republics), two Presidents (Democratic and Republican), the federal courts,
the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice failed to show the maturity
and leadership necessary to resolve Mr. Gul’s case. He deserved a better.
His family, including his many children and grandchildren, deserved better.
Mr. Gul’s enduring hope for Afghanistan, and even the United States forces
in Afghanistan, is captured in an Afghan proverb he quoted to me more than
once: “You cannot wash blood with blood.”
The Department of Defense’s press release earlier today is outrageous for a
couple reasons. The government, through this post-death statement, makes
claims more outlandish even than the government lawyers in Mr. Gul’s habeas
case. We now hear for the very first time in the nearly 10 years since Mr.
Gul’s arrest, that (1) he operated a guesthouse for Al-Qaida members, and
(2) that he admitted providing bin Laden operational support on several
occasions. Over the course of almost 3 years in court, the government has
never provided any evidence at all to support this slander. Neither Mr.
Gul nor any credible witness has ever said such things. Indeed, this is
why the government placed Mr. Gul in the group of prisoners set for
“indefinite detention;” it admitted that it lacked any credible evidence to
prove its suspicions in a court of law. The government never even made
these claims until now, when Mr. Gul is not alive to defend himself.
Beginning in the early 1980’s, Mr. Gul was a member of local forces who
were allied with the United States against the Soviets. From 1989-1996, he
continued to run the local weapons depot in his hometown, not unlike a
police commander, which he used to keep the peace. In 1996, the Taliban
swept through eastern Afghanistan and took over his city at the barrel of a
gun. Mr. Gul was given two options: flee with your family to Pakistan or
stay home and operate the depot at the command of the Taliban. It must be
remembered that the Taliban was initially greeted warmly by many Afghans,
and even the American government, as a source of hope. Mr. Gul stayed
home. The Taliban soon proved themselves to be as corrupt and abusive as
we can imagine. Mr. Gul discovered this change over time and resigned from
the Taliban more than one year before September 11, 2001. He was arrested
in December 2001 when he voluntarily traveled to meet American military
officials. He had nothing to hide then and has nothing to hide now. We
shared all the evidence from Afghanistan that proves his innocence with the
government and the federal court. Justice will now come too late for Mr.