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The Story of Oybek Jabbarov, An Innocent Man Freed From Guantánamo

By Andy Worthington

Yesterday I reported that the US government had released three prisoners from Guantánamo, repatriating Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni, and sending two unidentified prisoners — presumed to be Uzbeks — to new homes in Ireland. I suspected that one of the men was Oybek Jabbarov, an Uzbek who was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2007, but who could not be repatriated because of the well-known human rights abuses in his homeland, and the fact that he had been threatened by Uzbek agents who had been allowed to visit him in Guantánamo.

It has now been confirmed that one of the Uzbeks freed in Ireland is indeed Oybek Jabbarov, and, while I wish him and his unidentified countryman every opportunity to settle into their new home in peace, I want to take this opportunity to reproduce a letter by Jabbarov, sent from Guantánamo last October (PDF), and a statement by his lawyer, delivered to a House Committee last May, to demonstrate how, in contrast to the hyperbolic claims made by Bush administration officials and their supporters, it was disturbingly easy for innocent men like Oybek Jabbarov to end up in Guantánamo.

These men — and there were many hundreds of innocent men in Guantánamo, and many who are still held — were mostly seized by the Americans’ opportunistic allies at a time when bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread, and were then presumed guilty without any screening process by an administration drunk on its own exercise of unfettered executive power, in which everyone who ended up in US custody was an “unlawful enemy combatant” without rights, regardless of whether, like Oybek Jabbarov, they have lost nearly eight years of their lives for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oybek Jabbarov’s letter from Guantánamo, October 8, 2008

Greetings. I am a citizen of Uzbekistan. I want to send you this letter to tell you about myself. I am in prison in Guantánamo since June 2002, but I am innocent and I am approved to leave Guantánamo but where can I go? I cannot go back to my native home, Uzbekistan, because it is not safe for me, my wife, and my two sons. I want to go to a free, safe and democratic country and live the rest of my life in peace with my family.

When I get my freedom, I want to work so I can support myself and my family. I am 30 years old. Ever since I was young, I have worked on farms, growing fruits, vegetables, and also raising livestock. It is very hard work, but I enjoy it very much. My hope is to one day study agriculture and to start my own agri-business. But I am accustomed to hard work and I will work at any job to support myself and my family.

Today I am meeting with my lawyer, Mr. Michael Mone, and I am speaking with him in English with no interpreter. Since I have been here in prison for more than six years, I have learned to speak English. When I get out I also want to take a ESL class to improve my English, although my lawyer tells me that I do not need it.

My time here in Guantánamo has been very hard on me and my family. My two sons are growing up without their father. I miss them very much.

It is a big mistake that I am here. I did nothing wrong and I am innocent. But I do not blame the American people for their government’s mistake. Even though I am still here in this prison I have no hate in my heart. My only wish is to get out of here and to be with my family — to see my two sons, and to find a peaceful life.


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