Entries in GITMO (7)


The Fresh Prince of Bel-Where? Gitmo Loves 90s Sitcom

Hemera/Thinkstock(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- Librarians at Guantanamo Bay’s prison detention center have had to up their stock of the popular 1990s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, starring Will Smith, thanks to the prisoners’ newfound enthusiasm for the sitcom.

The 168 captives currently residing at the U.S. prison base in Cuba have access to an extensive entertainment selection: the main library houses 18,000 books, 2,730 movies, 390 video games, and 1,235 magazines, according to Joint Task Force Guantanamo spokesperson Capt. Jennifer Palmeri. The books and movies are delivered upon requests to prisoners’ cells or recreation rooms by guards. And if the camp doesn’t have the particular book or movie that an inmate wants, camp leadership can buy it for him or her, provided it is vetted for any potential controversy, said Palmeri.

But recently many prisoners have been asking for the same thing: Will Smith as the titular Fresh Prince.

Fresh Prince became popular after a few people watched the first two seasons and decided to request the rest of the series,” Palmeri said.

A camp librarian identified only as Milton said the Fresh Prince show has now surpassed the previous favorite, the Harry Potter books, according to the Miami Herald, which first reported the Fresh Prince’s curious popularity. As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan wears on, entertainment becomes increasingly important for Muslim inmates who are fasting from dawn to sundown, Milton said. The Fresh Prince series has stepped in to fill the void.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air originally aired in 1990 on NBC and ran for six seasons. The show’s popular theme song kicked off each episode: “Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down,” raps the show’s star Will Smith.

It was that lead role -- in which Smith plays an inner-city teenager from Philadelphia transplanted into the posh home of his relatives in ritzy Bel Air, Calif. -- that launched Smith’s career and transformed him into a household name.

And now the Guantanamo detainees apparently find him endearing as well. The inmates are separated into four security levels, based on their cooperation with guards. About 80 percent of all prisoners are housed in either the communal facility or the maximum security detention center -- but all prisoners can order books or movies from the library, said Palmeri. Those in single-cell solitary confinement can watch movies on a TV installed for their viewing pleasure. Those in less-secure environments watch at a communal television, the screen encased in Plexiglas, according to the Miami Herald.

“One aspect of our mission is to provide activities to the detainees that are mentally and physically engaging,” Palmeri said. Besides reading and watching TV, inmates are offered classes on things like Arabic calligraphy and keyboarding. The art courses, however, are the most popular.

Also popular are the novels in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, a young adult fantasy series about a violent post-apocalyptic world whose citizens are subjugated by an all-powerful government. The Guantanamo library has two copies of the series for the detainees’ perusal.

In 2005, an American Forces Press Service report noted that Arabic translations of Agatha Christie novels were hot commodities on the camp library’s shelves, according to a security official. Since then, the Harry Potter books enjoyed a period of success, as did the self-help book Don’t Be Sad, which discusses happiness from an Islamic perspective. The library even stocks video games like Madden NFL.

The detainees still at Guantanamo hail from around the world, with the majority claiming roots in Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

The prison at Guantanamo Bay has been a hot-button political issue as President Barack Obama repeatedly promised to close the controversial prison while he was campaigning for office in 2008, but the facility remains open. A final report released by the Guantanamo Review Task Force in January of 2010 recommended that 48 of the current prisoners be held indefinitely under the laws of war.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gitmo Detainee Sentenced to Life in Prison

This courtroom drawing shows Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani (C) in court with his defense team on Nov. 17, 2010 in New York. Photo Courtesy - SHIRLEY SHEPARD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) – The first Guantanamo Bay detainee brought to the United States for a civilian trial has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of one of the more than 200 counts against him.

Ahmed Ghailani was sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court Tuesday for his role in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"Ahmed Ghailani is a remorseless terrorist, mass murderer, and Al Qaeda operative, and now he will spend the rest of his life in prison,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. “Finally, 12 and a half years after those devastating and despicable attacks, Ahmed Ghailani will pay for his crimes.”

Public interest groups, who have supported civilian trials for the detainees, have expressed their support for the trial and sentence.

"The Ghailani trial, like hundreds of others before it, should put to rest any unfounded fears that our federal justice system cannot conduct fair, safe and effective trials in terrorism cases, including when torture is an issue,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Such groups have urged President Obama to use Department of Justice funds to bring the detainees to the U.S. for trial despite a recently passed law that would ban the use of DOD funds for the transfers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Set to Resume Trials at Guantanamo Bay

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- President Obama is set to allow trials at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to resume, according to administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The move would be a tacit acknowledgment that any further attempts to try suspects in U.S. civilian courts are futile, given the amount of opposition that still exists to the idea.

In one of his first acts after taking office in 2009, Obama announced he was ordering the closure of the detention center at, which holds terrorist suspects arrested overseas.  The president argued that it had become a lightning rod for criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups.  His goal was to have the facility shut down by January 2010.  The president also suspended any military tribunals from taking place there.

Two years later, the prison still holds 173 detainees, while the White House has been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from Capitol Hill lawmakers who don't want trials held in the U.S. or to have any of the suspects moved to American jails.

It's estimated that more than 30 detainees will go up before the military commissions while the White House considers what should be done with the rest of the detainees at the Gitmo facility.  One of the ideas being considered is a parole-type system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gitmo Detainee Transferred to Algeria

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON ) – The Department of Defense Thursday announced the transfer of a Guantanamo Bay detainee to Algeria.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the release of Saiid Farhi to the government of Algeria in November 2009. His case was reviewed by the Guantanamo Review Task Force based on an executive order by President Obama in January of that year. Based on the review, Farhi’s transfer was approved unanimously by all six agencies on the task force.

In a statement, the DOD said they are grateful for the help of the Algerian government in assisting the U.S. to close the detention facility.

Currently, 173 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Yemeni Detainees at Guantanamo Receive Video Call Service

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- Dozens of Yemeni men imprisoned at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can now video teleconference with their family members abroad.

The new service, sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross and launched earlier this month, provides many detainees the first face-to-face contact with relatives since their detention nearly a decade ago.

The teleconferences also come as the Obama administration considers an executive order to hold some detainees indefinitely.

"Because of the length of their detention at Guantanamo, we've been pushing for this service," said ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno.  "And we have the full support of the [U.S.] authorities."

Previously, the men could communicate only through sending paper messages or occasional telephone calls transmitted through the Red Cross.

The video calls can last up to an hour and could occur once every three months, whenever the ICRC visits the facility.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Yemeni Gitmo Detainees Video Chat with Families

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(YEMEN) – Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being connected to their families through live videoconferencing.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has allowed for 90 detainees to connect with their families via video for up to an hour. Previously, only phone calls or brief messages had been available to the detainees.

For many, the video chats - the first of which were made around 10 days ago - are the first glimpse of their families they’ve had since 2001 or 2002.

The ICRC has been operating in Yemen since 1962.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Verdict in GITMO Trial: Damaging to Obama Administration Goal 

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, seen in this undated FBI wanted photo, was cleared of all but one of a 286-count indictment. Photo Courtesy -- FBI via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Manhattan federal jury has cleared the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to stand trial in a civilian court of all but one major count in a 286-count indictment.

The verdict found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was alleged to have participated in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Africa, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property with explosives, a charge that can carry 20 years to life.

A 2001 superseding indictment had charged Ghailani of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world. It also brought charges of murder for the deaths of each of the 224 people killed in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya and various other offenses related to the bombings.

The verdict could be a severe setback for the Obama administration’s goal of trying the GITMO detainees in civilian courts rather than before military tribunals.

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan did not allow a key government witness to testify in part because of allegations of torture and how they might have impacted the witness testimony. He ruled that the witness was arrested after information was obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques. 
Ghailani, who had been held since September 2006 at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was transferred to New York in June 2009 to face trial in a civilian court.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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