Yemeni Emad Hassan was seized while studying in Pakistan. During interrogation he was asked if he knew Al Qaeda, and said yes, referring to a small village called Al Qa'idah near his home in Yemen. As a result of this he has been held in Guantanamo for nearly 12 years.
Emad travelled from Yemen to Pakistan to study as he was not able to access specialised higher education in Yemen. Emad is an intellectual with a passion for poetry, ranging from the great Sufi poets like Rumi, to English poets such as Wilfred Owen.
But Emad’s studies ended dramatically when Pakistani forces picked him up in a raid on his student housing.
Emad was sold to American forces for $5000 under the US’ bounty scheme and taken to Guantanamo, where he has spent the last 12 years; a third of his life.
During the interrogation that followed, he was asked if he knew Al Qaeda and he responded: “Yes, I know Al Qa'idah well."
He was talking about a small village near where he grew up in Yemen. But this didn’t matter.
In the case of another prisoner picked up in the same raid, a judge ruled that the men were victims of a “mosaic theory” with very little evidence to support the allegations against him.
Emad has undertaken the longest hunger strike in Guantanamo. He has barely eaten a thing for the last seven years, enduring brutal force-feeding twice a day ever since his hunger strike began in 2007.
Hunger strikes are a universally regarded form of peaceful protest. Yet the Guantanamo authorities do not share this view - they have compared their response to strikers to adapting to new warfare tactics. Strikers are punished for their disobedience, violently removed from their cells, strapped to a chair and have tubes shoved up their noses through which a nutritional supplement is pumped. This has led to dire health problems for Emad. He has severe pancreatitis and one of his nasal passages has completely closed up. In his own words:
“Sometimes I sit in the chair and vomit. Nobody says anything. Even if they turned their backs I would understand. I’m looking for humans. All I ask for is basic human rights.”
The prison authorities have now stopped providing any information on hunger strikers in a bid to stop attention to their cause.
Emad has been cleared for release for many years now. As with many of the men in Guantanamo, despite being cleared he remains held without charge or trial, subject to the brutal conditions he found himself in 12 years ago.
Emad would like nothing more than to be released, as promised, back to the arms of his loving family. But because the US considers Yemen to be a dangerous a place to send former Guantanamo detainees, he is being punished for his nationality.
Emad has said that he will continue on his peaceful protest until he and his fellow cleared men can go home where they belong.