The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on the US government to release Al-Jazeera cameraman, Sami al-Haj, who this morning started his 100th day of hunger strike after almost five-years of detention at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre.
Al-Haj was first arrested crossing into Afghanistan with a legitimate visa on 15 December 2001. He was held by the US military at the Bagram base before being transferred to Guantanamo on 13th June 2002. Since then he has been interrogated over 150 occasions, tortured, and accused of terrorism offences. He has never been charged or brought to trial.
“In over five years the US Government has failed to produce any credible evidence against Sami al-Haj and he should be released immediately,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “It is increasingly apparent that he was arrested because he was a journalists working for Al-Jazeera.”
On January 7, already in poor health due to his inhuman treatment, Sami al-Haj started a hunger strike to protest his detention.
“Journalists around the world are calling for Sami’s release,” White said. “Now his detention is not just a matter of injustice but a matter of life and death.”
The IFJ believes that Sami al-Haj is being victimised for working for the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera. According to his lawyers he was forced to confess alleged links between Al-Jazeera and the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Al-Haj is the only confirmed journalist now imprisoned at Guantanamo.
The US alleges that he worked as a financial courier for Chechen rebels, and that he assisted al-Qaeda and extremist figures. But he has been held on the basis of secret evidence; he has not been charged let alone convicted of a crime. And until last year the military would not even acknowledge he was in custody.
Al-Haj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has said there is no credible evidence against his client and that the focus of US questioning has not been alleged terrorist activities but obtaining intelligence on Al-Jazeera and its staff.
The IFJ is backing calls from journalists around the Arab world for al-Haj’s release.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2200
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide