Emad Hassan was abducted by bounty hunters while studying in Pakistan and sold to US forces for $5,000. A simple mistake in the confusion of interrogation sealed his fate – he told his interrogators he knew about ‘Al Qa’idah’, referring to a small village with that name near his hometown in Yemen.
As a result, Emad was taken to Guantánamo Bay, where he was held for 13 years, until he was eventually released in June 2015. He was one of the first detainees to go on a peaceful hunger strike in 2007. He remained on hunger strike until the day he was freed.
Emad was never charged with a crime, and was cleared for release in 2009, but remained in Guantánamo a further 6 years. He lost a third of his life to the prison camp. Reprieve fought for his release, and challenged the brutal treatment meted out by guards as punishment for his peaceful hunger strike. In July 2014 we took action in the US courts after the guards prevented Emad and other detainees from praying communally during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims.
Emad travelled to Pakistan to study because he couldn’t access specialised higher education in Yemen. He’s an intelligent and gentle young man, with a passion for poetry, ranging from the great Sufi writers like Rumi, to English poets including Wilfred Owen. His studies ended dramatically when he was abducted by Pakistani forces in a raid on his student housing. In 2009, Emad was unanimously cleared for release by six different branches of the US government, including the FBI and the CIA, but he remained imprisoned. In peaceful protest, he went on hunger strike in 2007 until the day he left in June 2015 – longer than any other prisoner in Guantánamo. He barely ate for the last seven years of his detention, and was brutally force-fed twice a day.
The Guantánamo authorities view the hunger strike as dangerous disobedience and they punish any detainees who take part. The guards beat them, violently drag them from their cells, strap them to a chair and shove tubes up their noses, through which a nutritional supplement is pumped at high speed. The trauma this causes to their stomachs often means that victims vomit the liquid straight back out. This abuse has caused serious health problems for Emad. He has severe pancreatitis and one of his nasal passages has completely closed up. Thankfully, Emad’s ordeal is now over, and with the help of Reprieve’s Life After Guantánamo team, he can finally start a new life.
“All I ask is to be given my rights — the rights that are guaranteed by constitutions in all civilized nations. All I ask is to live free.”