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Sami al-Hajj : biography

February 15, 1969 -

Sami Mohy El Din Muhammed Al Hajj (), aka Sami Al-Haj (Khartoum, Sudan, February 15, 1969) is a Sudanese journalist for the Al Jazeera network. In 2001, while on his way to do camera work for the network in Afghanistan, he was arrested by the Pakistani army and held in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba for over six years.

He was released without charge on May 1, 2008. He intends to launch legal action against George W. Bush. 

Al Hajj's case was portrayed in a documentary titled Prisoner 345 by Al Jazeera producer Ahmad Ibrahim.

Release negotiation and release

al-Hajj at the 2008 Global Investigative Journalism Conference . On August 15, 2007, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State stated of Al Hajj's case:

On the same day, Ali Sadiq, an official of the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, stated:

Sami Al Hajj was released on May 1, 2008 from Guantanamo Bay and flown to Sudan. He arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on a US military plane in the early hours of Friday, May 2. Al Jazeera showed footage of him being carried into the hospital on a stretcher, looking frail but smiling and surrounded by well-wishers. 2 May 2008, BBC

Reviews by U.S. authorities

Combatant Status Review Tribunal

Stafford Smith summarized the allegations from Al Hajj's Combatant Status Review Tribunal:, Reporters Without Borders, April 19, 2006

According to Al Jazeera, the U.S. authorities labelled Al Hajj an "enemy combatant" and announced a number of charges against him, including:

  • That he travelled to the middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus for clandestine purposes.
  • That he had an internet site that supports terrorists.
  • That he was involved in selling Stinger missiles to Chechen rebels.
  • That he was caught entering Afghanistan illegally.
  • That he interviewed Osama bin Laden (a charge that was later dropped).

Ahmad Ibrahim, a colleague of Al Hajj who documented his case in the documentary Prisoner 345, denied each these charges.

Subsequent Administrative Review Boards

On February 23, 2007, it was reported that Al Hajj's continued detention had been reviewed by a subsequent Administrative Review Board. Al Hajj was not one of the eighty captives who that round of Administrative Review Boards had recommended for release or transfer.

His colleagues at Al Jazeera said "his detention is American harassment of an Arabic TV network whose coverage has long angered U.S. officials." Lamis Andoni, an Middle East analyst for Al Jazeera, said in reference to the November 2001 and April 2003 bombings of Al Jazeera's offices: "When you are targeted once, it could be a mistake, but when you are bombed twice, it's something else."

The director of the Joint Intelligence Group, Paul Rester, said: "I consider the information that we obtained from him to be useful", though he declined to offer any substantiation for this claim.

During his first Administrative Review Board hearing, Al Hajj said he was going to decline to reply to the charges, on legal advice. However, Al Hajj's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said that:

  • Al Hajj was not a clandestine financial courier, but: "...he and his wife once carried $220,000 from Qatar to Azerbaijan for his boss at the beverage company - and ... he even declared the cash to customs."
  • Al Hajj did meet Mamdouh Mahmud Salim once "while working for the beverage company ... when he was sent to pick him up at the airport in Qatar in 1998. During the drive, the two discussed schools and housing."

Interrogation and treatment

On April 20, 2007, the UK newspaper, The Guardian, started publishing excerpts from Clive Stafford Smith's book, Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons. According to Stafford Smith:

Living octopus

Living octopus

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