Samiullah Jalatzai

Afghan Man Taken From His Home Two Years Ago With No Explanation and Held—Incommunicado at Bagram Ever Since

In compliance with a court order, the U.S. Department of Defense, on January 15, 2010, published a list of captives held in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility that included the name Samiullah Jalatzai.

Two years earlier, Samiullah Jalatzai was arrested, at his home, without explanation.  He is now being held in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility.

On February 26th, 2010, the ACLU filed a habeas corpus petition on his behalf. A second petition was filed on behalf of his brother, Sibghatullah Jalatzai, who was a translator for the U.S. military for four years before his detention nearly 20 months ago.

The petitions charge that the military does not have the authority to detain these men and that the lack of access to a court or fair process to challenge their detention violates the U.S. Constitution and international law.

Neither brother has ever engaged in hostilities against the United States.  They are not members of groups that have engaged in hostilities against the United States.  They have never been told why they are being detained, nor have they been permitted to speak with a lawyer or given a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention before a court or impartial administrative board.

“Locking up people who were picked up far from any battlefield for years without telling them why, without giving them access to lawyers and without giving them a real chance to contest the evidence against them is unlawful and un-American,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The U.S. military does not have the authority to imprison these men and the law demands they get a fair process to prove that.”

Convicted in Absentia

According to the website Legal Issues in the Fight against Terrorism (LIFT), Hakeemy and another Tunisian, Hisham Sliti, were convicted in absentia in Belgium in 2003 for their supposed involvement in the assassination of Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Hakeemy was sentenced to 4 years in prison and Sliti to 5—based, according to Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, on their association with Hakeemy’s father-in-law Amor Sliti.

In January 2005, a Tunisian military court convicted Hakeemy under article 123 of its Code of Military Justice to 20 years in prison on charges of participating in a terrorist organization abroad. The main evidence against him, according to the court ruling, came from statements by codefendants in custody, who claimed that they had met Hakeemy at a military camp in Afghanistan. During the trial those codefendants tried to disavow their statements to the police, but the judge refused the request. Another Tunisian court sentenced him to 32 years for violating a law that was passed while he was already in Guantánamo.

Approved for Transfer

In 2006, under the Bush administration, Hakeemy was approved for transfer from Guantánamo by a military review board, which concluded that he no longer represented a threat to the US or its allies.

But where could he go? Italy didn’t want him, and Belgium and Tunisia had already judged him guilty—though one case appears to be guilt by association and the other a fabrication. Transferring Hakimi to Tunisia would violate both US precedent and international law.

In August 2009, two Belgian lawyers filed to extradite Sliti and Hakeemy, and it looked like the US would deliver them to Belgium in time for an October 6 court date, but the plan fell through.

A lot happened—or almost happened—for Guantánamo prisoners in 2009. In June the US and the European Union announced jointly that the last hurdles had been cleared for up to 50 detainees to be accommodated in EU countries. Earlier that month, on June 12, the US Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners have the right of habeas corpus: that is; they are entitled to appeal, to see the evidence against them, and to present witnesses for their defense in US civilian courts. (Before that they received only Combatant Status Review Tribunals, at which the accused have no voice.)  Hakeemy has repeatedly asked for the chance to mount a defense. An appeal he filed in DC court in 2006 was denied in 2009 for no stated reason. His most recent appeal was denied in 2010.

The journalist Andy Worthington has written about him in the book The Guantánamo Files and in numerous published articles. Of organizations with websites in English, the London-based charity Reprieve carries a profile and is working for his release. Reprieve invites supporters to write to him, as does the organization Ummah Forum.
A Facebook page also requests letters of support.

More Information

“The Questionable Fate of Two Tunisians”
The Guantánamo Docket, New York Times/NPR
Belgian government ponders extradition request for two Tunisian Guantanamo detainees
The Lift