Samantha Bee Interviews Ex-Gitmo Detainee
On Monday’s episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Bee interviewed Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen arrested by Pakistani forces in Peshawar, Pakistan in late 2001, and then transferred to U.S. military custody. He was detained at the American base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, until his transfer to Guantanamo—or as Bee calls it, “a prized source of national embarrassment”—where he was held for 5 years.
The episode detailed how the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and Joint Task Force Guantanamo all agreed that Kurnaz was innocent as early as 2002. And yet, he was not returned to Germany until 2006 after Chancellor Angela Merkel personally negotiated his release with then-President George W. Bush.
Kurnaz was thought to have ties to an al Qaeda cell in Germany as well as a suicide bomber, though the accused suicide bomber is still alive and well and living in Germany. During his initial detention at Kandahar in Afghanistan, Kurnaz said he was waterboarded, electrocuted, and suspended from chains attached to the ceiling for days. He claims that he continued to be tortured after his arrival at Guantanamo in an attempt to force him to sign a confession—well after his innocence had been determined.
In the interview Kurnaz says, “I thought the Americans will do everything by the rules. And as soon as they find out I am innocent, they will send me home.”
Stories like Kurnaz’s are, unfortunately, not uncommon when it comes to Guantanamo detainees. Many were detained in the months immediately following 9/11 with little evidence of any actual ties to terrorism. Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz al-Shamiri is one such case of mistaken identity that remained imprisoned for 13 years before being cleared for transfer.
It is crucial for the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board process to continue as quickly as possible, so that, as Kurnaz says, those that are not a threat to the United States can go home, and those that are believed to have committed crimes can be properly tried, and if convicted, put in jail.