Wikileaks releases details of Maldivian national’s detention in Guantanamo

Recently-released Wikileaks cables reveal that the Maldivian government in 2004 assured the United States that former Guantanamo prisoner Ibrahim Fauzee would not be able to leave the Maldives.

In a cable dated 2 August 2004, then Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Shihab told then-US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead that the Maldives was “prepared to cooperate fully with [the US] in dealing with the detainee,” and at a minimum, the Maldivian government would put Fauzee under “close surveillance” and “on a watch list to ensure that he could not leave the country.”

The cable added: “Shihab noted that with the Maldives as an island nation, this would be effective in preventing him from traveling, unless, Shihab said, ‘he is very good at rowing.'”

Fauzee, of Thudhaadhoo island in Baa atoll, was originally arrested in Karachi, Pakistan during a raid on his landlord’s house. Files accessed through a collection of Wikileaks documents at UK’s The Guardian said the raid “just missed a group of Al Qaeda members who had gathered at the home for a meeting.”

Fauzee was then sent to Afghanistan, where he was handed over to US forces. According to a US Department of Defense file published by UK’s The Telegraph, Fauzee was identified as a “medium threat to the US, its interests, and its allies” when he arrived at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba on August 5 2002.

The Telegraph Online published a document from the Department of Defense, dated 11 November 2003, suggested that suspicion of terrorist involvement was based on Fauzee’s recent travel and expenditure record. “[Fauzee] has traveled extensively in spite of his limited income and has failed to explain adequately the source(s) of the funds he used for travel. Detainee also attended a fundamentalist madrassa.”

The New York Times also published a document from the Combatant Status Review Board dated 13 December 2004. The document claims that Fauzy was detained at Guantanamo because his telephone number was discovered in another terrorist detainee’s pocket. The number was allegedly associated with “a Sudanese teacher who assisted Arabs traveling to training camps in Afghanistan.”

The cables

According to the cables, Maldivian Permanent Secretary Ahmed Shaheed requested that the United States share any intelligence it had gained from Fauzee on 5 November 2002. The cable noted that the Maldivian government “may have made similar requests via other channels”, but there is no evidence of any response to these requests.

“Shaheed specifically asked for any information on ties Fauzee may have with other Maldivian nationals,” read the cable. “In this regard, Shaheed also requested that the Maldivian government be permitted to conduct its own intelligence interview of Fauzee.”

Eighteen days later, cables show that Shaheed wrote to US officials requesting Fauzee’s release.

By August 2003, Maldivian government personnel were granted a visit to Guantanamo and an interview with Fauzee. The government’s assessment found Fauzee an unlikely threat, and after further investigation the Maldivian government requested his release on 5 November 2003.

No action was taken, although cables indicate at least one more request for Fauzee’s return was made on 11 May 2004.

By late 2004, the US government had agreed to return Fauzee to the Maldives under certain conditions. A cable dated 13 December of that year shows the Maldivian Foreign Ministry was interested in cooperating with these conditions, which included humane treatment upon release.

“Following the release of Mr. Ibrahim Fauzee from US military detention in Guantanamo Bay and upon his return to the Maldives, the Government of Maldives undertakes to treat him humanely in accordance with the laws, and its international obligations.”

The Maldivian government also agreed to enter Fauzee “into relevant national and international watch lists and to apply every measure consistent with its laws to keep him under surveillance, to monitor his movements, and if necessary and appropriate, to restrict them, in order to prevent him from actively engaging in terrorism related activities or associating himself with terrorist organizations.”

On the same date, the US Combatant Status Review Board offered Fauzee a chance to contest his status as an enemy combatant.

Three and a half months later, the US government determined Fauzee “to no longer be an enemy combatant.” Fauzee was extradited to the Maldives on 11 March 2005, where he is currently president of local religious NGO, the Islamic Foundation.

Fauzee is the only Maldivian on record to be detained at Guantanamo Bay. After his release from Guantanamo, Fauzee discovered that his vital documents, which Pakistani authorities had seized during his arrest in 2002, were not in his possession. Since May 2005, the Maldivian government and Human Rights Commission have requested their return from the US government. Fauzee told Minivan News today that his documents were returned to him, but declined to comment on the release of the Wikileaks cables.

The cables were released on Friday, September 2 along with tens of thousands from countries with which the US has difficult relationships, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Files on Guantanamo prisoners were among those released. Since the release, the Wikileaks website has crashed repeatedly due to high traffic.


Journalist, 14 year-old boy and senile old man among Guantánamo detainees, leaked dossiers reveal

A trove of over 750 US military dossiers on Guantánamo detainees leaked to international media, including the New York Times and the Guardian, have revealed that many inmates were kept incarcerated for years on flimsy evidence, or information extracted under torture.

Many incarcerated were victims of circumstance, including an 89 year-old Afghan villager suffering from senile dementia who had “suspicious phone numbers” in his house, a 14 year-old kidnap victim “with possible knowledge of local Taliban leaders”, and a journalist for al-Jazeera.

The latter was imprisoned for six years during which time he was interrogated “on the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and news-gathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan.”

The documents also include a summary of evidence against former Maldivian Guantánamo detainee Ibrahim Fauzee, dated 2004.

According to the document, Fauzee was arrested in Pakistan while he was living in “a suspected al Qaida safehouse.” His telephone number was “ found in terrorist detainees’ pocket litter”, and “the detainee’s point of contact telephone number was associated with a Sudanese teacher who assisted Arabs traveling to training camps in Afghanistan.”

Fauzee was subsequently released and transferred to the Maldives on March 11, 2005, where he now heads the Islamic Foundation NGO.

The documents also reveal that that US authorities privately listed the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah, and that US authorities relied heavily on evidence obtained under torture from a small number of detainees.

Other indicators used as an assessment of terrorist potential included possession of a Casio F-91W digital watch, which “was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan [during] which the students received instruction in the preparation of timing devices using the watch.”

US President Barak Obama vowed to close the controverisal military prison but has been unable to transfer the remaining 172 detainees. The Maldives was last year in negotiations to accept several inmates, with leaked diplomatic cables revealing that the country was offered US$85,000 to assist with the “resettlement expenses” of an inmate.

Those who remain include the severely-tortured, informers requiring protection, and group of Chinese Uighur minority Muslims.

The leaked dossiers are among hundreds of thousands leaked to Wikileaks last year, allegedly by US soldier Bradley Manning, who remains in custody.

In a response to the Guardian, the Pentagon criticised the release of the documents, claiming that “the situation with the Guantánamo detention facility is exceptionally complex and releasing any records will further complicate ongoing actions.”


Are the Former Guantanamo Prisoners a Security Threat?: Speigel Online

“Are the two men [being resettled in Germany] a security risk or are they desperately in need of assistance? Will they be welfare cases or seek vengeance?” ask four writers for the German news website Speigel Online.

In both cases, the German host states are preparing to provide extensive assistance to the men. “To the best of our knowledge, special security measures are not necessary,” says Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Bruch.

The assistance for the two men will apparently consist primarily of psychological counseling, language courses and intensive integration assistance. The goal is to enable the former inmates to live undisturbed in Germany, reports Speigel.

German authorities are determined to prevent the two men from receiving the same treatment as Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish-born resident of the northern city of Bremen. After his release in 2006, he arrived in Germany in chains.

Read more


Comment: Such is this mob rule called ‘democracy’

The freedom to think, which we Maldivians claimed for ourselves by ousting a dictatorial government and replacing it with a ‘democratic’ one, appears to have rendered us incapable of rational thought.

There appears not a single principle that is not up for auction in the market of ‘public opinion’. Everything from our faith to our humanity carry with them a political price tag. At the helm is a government which oscillates so wildly between the political right and the left that any keen observer would suffer more repetitive strain injury to the neck than a spectator at a Wimbledon tennis final.

Take for instance the decisions by the Youth Ministry first to maybe-allow, then to disallow and then to definitely-allow, the Muslim televangelist, Dr Zakir Naik, to provide Maldivians with The Biggest Event of their lifetimes.

The latest decision, perhaps by no means the last, must have been arrived at after much soul-searching and in-depth analysis. It must, no doubt, have taken into account the experience of another country where sports grounds were taken over for ‘religious activities’. The Taliban turned Kabul’s main stadium into a hub for ‘religious devotion’, treating their masses to spectacles of execution, death by stoning, hanging and amputations. No doubt the audience departed much enlightened about ‘true Islam’.

Public opinion is a tricky idol at the altar of which to worship. The government must be perplexed at the opposition to its agreement with the United States to relocate some of the ‘Enemy Combatants’ or ‘Illegal Detainees’ from Guantanamo Bay to the Maldives. Why is a society that is so eager to stress its Islamic purity, and promotes its ‘100 percent Muslim’ status with the same zeal as a restaurant promoting a coveted Michelin star, opposed to relocating to their lands these people who have been so utterly wronged by the United States? Did not the eminent Dr Naik himself assert that the 11 September 2001 attacks were an ‘inside job’? By this very learned logic alone, these detainees can be nothing but innocent.

The opposition, however, is not willing to pay any heed – either to the venerable Dr Naik or to empirical evidence. Hosting these ‘convicts’, they cry, would make our country ‘a target’.

No thought is spared to consider:

(a) for a person to be labelled a ‘convict’, they need to first be convicted of an offence defined by law. Most of the detainees have never been charged with a crime let alone convicted of one.

(b) If they were ‘terrorists’, why would then a terrorist organisation attack us for sheltering them? Should they not, by the same logic, then be beholden to us?

(c) No country, other than the United States, has ever attacked another for ‘harbouring terrorists’. And, in light of the disaster that has been the ‘War on Terror’, no government is likely to disregard (or be allowed to disregard) international law again – at least in living memory – to the extent that the neo-conservative Bush government did.

Now the new US government is seeking to relocate these victims of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in modern history. We are hardly going to be top of President Obama’s list of countries to attack next by ‘harbouring’ them.

“Even a country like the United States would not take them,” cries the opposition.

Even a country like the United States? Is this the extent of our liberalism? That we assume that any Western democracy is right, no matter how obviously wrong it is?

‘Public opinion’ – yes, that old chestnut again – and a highly right wing and conservative establishment are preventing President Obama’s government from closing the atrocity that is Guantanamo Bay. The ignorance of a vast majority of the American public, whose fears the Bush administration played like a maestro does an orchestra and are held aloft at a crescendo by Fox News, that bastion of balanced journalism, are now being uncannily echoed in the national theatre of Maldivian ‘public opinion’.

“We have not been told anything! We don’t know why they are in prison!” The opposition is hysterical, claiming to have been left “totally in the dark”.

It is hardly the government’s business to plug the gaping holes of ignorance in the opposition’s knowledge. Over 700 of the 50,000 ‘Enemy Combatants’ that the US apprehended in their War on Terror have been held in Guantanamo Bay. A vast majority of them are innocent. Information on how they were treated in US captivity is widely and easily available in the global public domain from the legal memos that deprived the Detainees of the Geneva Convention to those that redefined ‘torture’ as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ to detailed prison logs that demonstrate what these innocent victims were put through in the name of ‘intelligence gathering’.

Profiles of over 500 detainees held at Guantanamo, diligently compiled by law professor and counsel to two detainees, Mark Denbeaux of Seton Law Hall, are also available for public perusal should one care to concern oneself with such minor details, in addition to the profiles compiled by Cage prisoners.

Given that the number of detainees currently being held at Guantanamo is 181, this information would contain within it details relating to the unfortunate souls destined for the Maldives to find ‘sanctuary’ among their ‘100 percent Muslim’ brothers and sisters.

Deliberate ignorance does not justify selling our humanity for the dubious pleasures of political gainsaying.

It is well and good for the government to advise those agitating against these dogmatic opinions and beliefs to organise themselves and form a viable alternative to the blatant evangelism of the religious right. This, however, becomes near impossible if the government remains unclear where it stands, and vacillates from one end of the political spectrum to the other in any given week.

There is a reason why liberal Maldivians cannot form a coherent whole in their own country – the space in which their ideas can flourish diminishes by the day as the government gives in inch by inch, and the extreme religious right takes mile after mile.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


National Security Committee meeting on Gitmo detainees postponed

Today’s National Security Committee meeting regarding the transfer of Guantánamo Bay inmates to the Maldives has been rescheduled, after Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid requested to cancel it.

The meeting has been postponed for next week, after a call from Shahid to the Chairman of the committee and leader of the People’s Alliance (PA), Abdulla Yameen.

He wanted to postpone the meeting until Parliament reconvenes in June and all committee members are back from leave.

Yameen said the meeting “was cancelled by the speaker,” and has been rescheduled for next Sunday. He said although he was not sure if all members of the committee would be present at the meeting, “we will have quorum.”

He did not want to comment on the issue of the detainees “as of yet.”

Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi-South, Mohamed Nasheed, said “when the chair wants to hold a meeting, the speaker has no right to postpone it.”

He said the decision to hold a committee meeting, whether during recess or session, was completely up to the chair of the committee, “and there’s nothing the administration or the speaker’s office can do.”

Nasheed said the Majlis committees were all “very democratic institutions,” and all the powers vested in the chair were provided for in the codes.

“The only people who can object is a majority from the committee itself,” he added.

Nasheed said “the meeting will not be cancelled” and there will be “lots of hearings” with the Foreign Ministry, Police, and the Attorney General, among others.

He said the situation will be verified, details asked for and documents submitted on the matter.

“The committee will then make an assessment and then report to the Majlis.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said Yameen had decided “all the party should be present,” and added “the Parliament should be involved” in deciding upon the issue of the detainees.

He said it was important the meeting was held with “the inclusiveness of all [11] members,” and should be postponed until all members returned from leave.

“If anything happens to Maldives, we should all be concerned about this.”

Price per head

MP Nasheed said he was “not in favour of the meeting going in a particular way,” but he believes it is “a serious issue” where law and policy must be looked at carefully.

He said the government was trying to paint the detainees as “innocent and helpless Muslims,” but, he asked, “if they don’t want them in the jurisdiction of the US, why keep them in a third country?”

Nasheed argued that the detainees’ fundamental freedoms were still being encroached on. “Their movements are still controlled. Why do all these things?”

He said although the “government’s spin” was that they were innocent, he noted that Bermuda’s government was paid US$9 million per head for each Guantánamo detainee they settled in their country.

“They ought not get into this deal just for the money,” Nasheed said, adding that there were children in Vilingili orphanage who needed families, money and staff to look after them. “Why take in Chinese or Palestinians?”

“If they’re innocent, free them,” he said. “But the government is saying they are not even capable of committing a crime. This is absurd.”

He noted the government had initially tried to transfer two Chinese nationals who had been detained at Guantánamo, until a Chinese delegation came to the Maldives protesting that the two men were terrorists.

He said the government withdrew its intention to resettle the two men “only after China issued a press release.”


The small South Pacific island nation of Palau, a former US territory until 1994, agreed to take in 17 Muslims from China last June, according to The Times (UK).

The men, from the Xinjiang area in China’s north-west, belong to the Uighur ethnicity.

They claim to have been persecuted for decades under Beijing’s rule, and fled to neighbouring Pakistan.

They were taken to Guantánamo on the basis that they had received a small-arms training, which they claim was to defend themselves from China.

China has repeatedly asked the US government to send the men back to China, claiming they are terrorists, but their plea has met with harsh opposition. The US fears they will be killed or tortured if sent home.

China has also asked many other countries not to take the men in, leaving Palau as the sole country on the list of volunteers to resettle the Uighurs.

They were found innocent in 2004, but remained in Guantánamo until Palau’s government agreed to take them in. Palau is one of the few countries that does not recognise China, but maintains diplomatic relations with Tibet.

Additionally, the US gave Palau US$200 million in “development and budget” aid, but the White House has denied the money is tied to the transfer of the detainees. The Pentagon, on the other hand, has called it a “pay-off.”

Correction: When stating that US$9 million was paid per detainee, MP Nasheed was referring to the case in Palau, although the government of Bermuda also accepted four Uighurs from Guantánamo Bay. Whether Bermuda’s government accepted money from the US was not made public.