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No More Guantanamos

December 2009 Newsletter

In This Issue:


 

Please support NMG's work to engage the American people in assuring justice and human rights for U.S. prisoners.  Contribute by check or contact us to donate stock. NMG’s tax-exempt status is pending. Our address is:

No More Guantánamos
P.O. Box 618
Whately, MA 01093

Get involved! Contact us about starting a local coalition or asking your coalition to be part of our nationwide network. You may also join here.

Bringing Justice to All “Guantánamos” is Up to Us

Guantánamo Bay prison and a network of other offshore detention and interrogation centers established to be outside the law are both a black mark on the U.S. and a historic opportunity for the American people to right our country’s course.
 
Government officials have delayed and denied justice for the imprisoned men by portraying them as monstrous, inhuman, and undeserving of legal protections and other human rights. Eight years of the secrecy, fear- and hate-mongering that have supported legal limbo for the men now threaten President Obama’s planned closure of the prison by blocking, at least temporarily, obvious steps for forward movement—such as resettling in the U.S.at least some cleared prisoners who cannot safely return home.
 
No More Guantánamos (NMG) seeks an end to the fear-mongering that delays and denies justice for the men by restoring the men’s humanity, telling the men’s stories in our communities and appealing to Americans’ innate sense of justice and fairness. We are a coalition of concerned U.S. residents, communities, organizations, and attorneys who are working together to ensure justice for the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and other offshore prison sites maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon around the world. We work to ensure basic human rights for all prisoners, including the legal right to be either charged for crimes and tried in accordance with international law or released, and to find homes for prisoners who cannot return home.
 
NMG grassroots chapters are already at work in four states, with more expected soon, and our first success story—the overwhelming passage in Amherst, MA, of a resolution to welcome two cleared prisoners to the community—is a model for other communities and proof of the effectiveness of using true stories about individual men at Guantánamo to counteract misinformation and stereotypes. You can help by joining us online today and sharing this newsletter with friends who want to close all of the U.S.’s “Guantánamos” with justice.
 

News from the Grassroots

 
Pioneer Valley (Massachusetts) No More Guantánamos (PVNMG) began meeting in May. It chose to work on behalf of two Guantánamo prisoners: Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian who has been cleared for release, and Ravil Mingazov, a Russian who is still waiting for a judge to hear his habeas corpus petition and, hopefully, clear him. Neither man can safely return to his home country. Local area clergy have supported the group’s goals to welcome a few cleared detainees to the area and have hosted three interfaith clergy meetings on the subject, written and signed a clergy statement, and shared information about the project and the two men with their congregations through sermons and newsletters.
 
First-in-the-nation resolution passed on November 4! Last August, Ruth Hooke, one of the group’s members worked with other members to draft a resolution for the Town of Amherst’s special town meeting to consider. The resolution calls on Congress to lift its ban preventing cleared detainees from settling in the U.S. and welcomes a few cleared detainees. After gathering the needed signatures to get the article on the warrant, Hooke and other members and supporters drafted an informational brochure for the 240 elected Town Meeting members, aimed at addressing fears and misunderstandings about the resolution and briefly telling the stories of Belbacha and Mingazov. A few weeks before the Town Meeting vote, the brochure convinced Diana Stein, a Select Board member, to vote in favor of recommending that Town Meeting support the resolution.  Speaking at the Select Board meeting, Stein revealed that she had previously planned to recommend against the resolution, because she feared that men who are released from Guantánamo might take vengeance on the community following their long, unjust imprisonment. After reading the men’s stories, she realized she had been misled by propaganda and decided to support the resolution.
 
Stein’s vote resulted in a majority of two Select Board members supporting the resolution; a third member voted against it, and two members were absent. The small victory generated interest from national and international media leading up to the November 4 vote in Town Meeting, which was overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution. Read the November 5, 2009, Christian Science Monitor story about the vote.
 
About 100 people attended the group’s public forum Two Lives from Guantánamo: Yes, in My Backyard in Northampton on November 19, which featured two actors portraying prisoners Belbacha and Mingazov in monologues based on the men’s own statements and life stories. The keynote speaker was Zachary Katznelson, who until recently represented Belbacha and more than 50 other Guantánamo Bay prisoners as Legal Director of the British charity Reprieve. Gary Thompson, a member of Mingazov’s legal team at the law firm Reed Smith in Washington, DC, where Thompson is a partner, was the special guest speaker. Videos of the program will be available on the NMG website soon.
 
Next Steps. The group has begun gathering petition signatures for a Northampton City Council resolution similar to the Amherst resolution and is also circulating a general petition welcoming former prisoners to the residents’ city or town. They have invited the public to sign oversized greeting cards for the two prisoners for community members to sign. Attorneys for the two men will carry the cards to Guantánamo Bay.
 
North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) formed in 2005 “to expose and end North Carolina's central role in the ongoing U.S. torture program.” The group formed when it learned that Aero Contractors headquartered in Smithfield, NC, was operating aircraft used in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. 
 
The group chose to work on behalf of Pakistani businessman Saifullah Paracha, a victim of extraordinary rendition who was transferred to Guantánamo Bay prison in 2005, and Sharifullah, an Afghan soldier who opposed the Taliban and served in Hamid Karzai’s security detail. The three attorneys on Sharifullah’s three-member legal team practice in North Carolina.
 
On November 14, the group held a forum in Raleigh, Guantánamo Bay: Beyond the Law’s Reach, that nearly 50 people attended. The forum was also a fundraiser to raise funds for expenses for Sharifullah's legal representation. Two of Sharifullah's attorneys, Frank Goldsmith and Robert M. Elliot, spoke, along with Nancy Talanian, NMG’s national director.
 
NCSTN is drafting a Human Rights Champion City resolution supporting the human rights of the two prisoners the group is supporting, including the men’s legal right to be either charged and tried in federal court or released.
 
Tallahassee Interfaith Coalition, Florida, formed in 2008 to support resettling three Guantánamo Uighur prisoners in their city. Their plan detailing their work to organize the necessary resources was instrumental in Judge Ricardo Urbina’s October 2008 ruling on the Kiyemba habeas corpus petition [see “In the Courts” below] that the Bush administration must release the 17 cleared Uighur prisoners to Tallahassee and the nation’s largest community of Uighurs, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Most of the men have been resettled in Bermuda and temporarily in Palau.
 
The Tallahassee group’s resettlement plans are on the NMG website. The group’s founder, attorney Kent Spriggs, has represented Guantánamo prisoners, and his story about the Tallahassee Uighurs Settlement Project was recently published in the book, The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law, edited by Mark P. Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz (New York University Press).
 
Strength Through Peace of Fort Collins, Colorado formed in 2002. As an NMG chapter, the group has chosen to support the plight of Abdul Ra’ouf Abu Al Qassim, a Libyan who has been cleared for release since 2006 but who cannot safely return to Libya.
 

New NMG Resources

Please visit the NMG website for general information and resources for local coalitions and activists, such as:
 
  • Toolkits
  • Resolutions
  • Petitions
  • Literature 

In the Courts

 
Judges Hearing Habeas Petitions Overwhelmingly Rule in Prisoners’ Favor.  In June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantánamo Bay prisoners have the right to appeal their detentions through the writ of Habeas Corpus. Since then, judges in the DC District Court have gradually been processing prisoners’ habeas petitions. In 31 of the 39 cases heard so far (80 percent), judges have determined that the government failed to meet the low evidentiary threshold supporting the men's continued imprisonment and have ordered the administration to release the prisoners.
 
Al-Maqaleh v. Gates Outcome Will Determine Bagram Prisoners’ Right to Appeal. Last April, Judge John Bates ruled that the Supreme Court’s Boumediene ruling upholding Guantánamo prisoners’ right to appeal their detentions also applied to certain prisoners held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Specifically, Judge Bates extended habeas to non-Afghan prisoners who were captured outside Afghanistan and transferred to Bagram. The Obama administration appealed the judge’s ruling, and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on January 7,  2010. 
 
Help spread the word about this important case. You can find more information about it, including briefs, on the International Justice Network’s website.
 
Supreme Court to hear Kiyemba v. Obama; Ruling Expected in June 2010. In October 2008, the Bush administration appealed Judge Ricardo Urbina’s DC District Court ruling ordering the release into the U.S. of 17 Uighur prisoners who had been cleared but who could not return to China. The Bush administration’s attempts to find other countries willing to take the men had failed. President Obama renewed the Bush administration’s appeal, and on February 18, 2009, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Urbina’s ruling, claiming that only the executive and legislative branches have the power to rule on immigration matters. The Uighurs appealed to the Supreme Court, and in October of this year, the Court agreed to hear the case. Oral arguments are expected to be heard in February or March of 2010. The case is especially significant for men who have been cleared but who cannot safely be returned to their home countries, whom no third country has agreed to accept, and who cannot be resettled in the U.S. due to Congress’s blanket ban.
 

NMG News

 
Board: NMG incorporated last July and elected the following board members: Bruce Miller, President; Jeanne Herrick-Stare, Treasurer; Nancy Talanian, Secretary; and Imran Siddiqui.
 
Advisory Board: NMG is pleased to announce the following advisory board members who support the organization’s work: Buz Eisenberg, Tina Monshipour Foster, Shayana Kadidal, Kate Martin, Robert Meeropol, Hope Metcalf, William Newman, Christopher Pyle, Stephen Rohde, Clive Stafford Smith, and Andy Worthington.
 
Colleague Organizations: The following national and international organizations support and collaborate with NMG: Center for Constitutional Rights, International Justice Network, Reprieve, and September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. NMG welcomes other organizations to join us.
 
No More Guantánamos
P.O. Box 618
Whately, MA 01093
Telephone: 413-665-1150
 
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