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December 16, 2009

In light of new developments about the future of Guantánamo Bay and the fate of the men who remain imprisoned there, several recently released books will be vital to the impending national debate about the prison camp. Written by those with first hand knowledge of Gitmo — the detainees and their lawyers — these books provide a unique inside view inside the notorious detention facility.

Newly published by NYU Press, The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law, edited by the ACLU National Security Project’s own Jonathan Hafetz and fellow Gitmo-expert, Seton Hall’s Mark Denbeaux, this new book draws together first-hand accounts from attorneys who have represented many of the 750 men imprisoned at Guantánamo. Containing more than 100 personal narratives from the range of people who have represented the prisoners, the book is an inside view into Guantánamo and the litigation it has sparked, and includes submissions from ACLU attorneys Denny LeBeouf, Steven Watt, and Ben Wizner, and former ACLU attorney, Amrit Singh. Additionally, the full and unedited stories are collected and preserved in an electronic archive through the Seton Hall Law School and the New York University Libraries.

Former Guantánamo detainee British-born Moazzam Begg, who is featured in a recently released ACLU film, is author of the first memoir published by a Guantánamo detainee. Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantánamo, Bagram, and Kandahar details Moazzam’s three year imprisonment in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo, much of it spent in solitary confinement, before his eventual release in 2005, without explanation apology. Considered “essential reading” by the New York Review of Books, Moazzam’s book provides a revealing look at the notorious prison camp.

Another published account by a former detainee is that of German-born Murat Kurnaz. Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo. Murat was detained in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo for five years, endured daily interrogations, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and other abuse, before he was acknowledged to be innocent and released in 2006.

Poems from Guantánamo is a collection of work written by detainees while imprisoned at Guantánamo. Edited by Marc Falkoff, a law professor and attorney for Guantánamo prisoners, this collection brings together 22 poems by 17 detainees — among them, Moazzam Begg — and others who still remain in legal limbo at the prison camp. A poem by Osama Abu Kabir, a Jordanian water driver entitled “Is It True?” reads:

Is it true that the grass grows again after rain?
Is it true that the flowers will rise up in the Spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up their stream?

It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we’ll leave Guantanamo Bay?
Is it true that one day we’ll go back to our homes?
I sail in my dreams, I am dreaming of home.

To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents, my world’s tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.

But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we’ve committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!

Abu Kabir was released from Guantánamo without charge in November 2007.

For a preview of the kind of details contained in these books, check out the ACLU’s short film Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo, which puts a human face on the Bush administration’s failed detention and interrogation policies through five interviews with former detainees, including Moazzam Begg.

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