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Derek McMillan

Guantanamo

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I heard Omar Deghayes mother speak at a meeting in Brighton on Friday called to discuss the election. Her question to the candidates was "Can you help my son?"

Omar Deghayes is a 35 year old married man and father, originally from Libya, but a resident of Saltdean since 1987, who was arrested in Pakistan and has been held in solitary confinement in Camp Delta, Cuba since 2002.

He has not been charged with any offence and the only evidence produced against him is a video tape,which the Americans claim links Mr Deghayes with terrorists but which experts have dismissed as a case of mistaken identity.

His lawyer Clive Stafford Smith claims his client has been tortured by American soldiers, leaving him blind in one eye.

The British Government, which had previously claimed it could not help, as he is a British resident, not a British national, has bowed to public pressure, and agreed to present the family's concerns about his treatment to US officials.

His supporters believe he should be charged and tried or released back to the U.K., and not to Libya from whence his family fled persecution and where he would certainly be in mortal danger. We do not claim his innocence or guilt but his human rights and entitlement to due process.

What you can do

1. Write a letter of support to Omar, in as many languages as you can, and e-mail it to jackie.chase@virgin.net who will send it on to his lawyer, and copy it to Charles Clarke and Jack Straw if you wish.

2. Send gifts of shampoo, toothpaste, books, particularly poetry, music, boxer shorts, and anything else you can think of to

Omar Deghayes,

c/o Brighton Peace and Environment Centre,

39-41 Surrey St,

Brighton

BN1 3PB.

His lawyer will despatch these things to Camp Delta.

3) Use the worksheet on Omar Deghayes in citizenship lessons

Further information from Democracy Now!

The following was broadcast on the American TV program Democracy Now!

UK Resident Reports Widespread Torture At Guantanamo.

Meanwhile another detainee being held at Guantanamo Bay has come forward to reveal that he has been systematically tortured while in U.S. custody. A Libyan-born, British resident named Omar Deghayes said that during his time in detention he has been sodomized by U.S. guards, given electrical shocks, was nearly drowned and was treated so brutally that he was left blind in one eye. Deghayes also accuses US and Pakistani interrogators of beating him, smearing his face with human excrement, starving him of food, and withdrawing light and clothing. On his detention in Afghanistan he said, "The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films ... Lying on the floor of the compound, all night I would hear the screams of others in the rooms above us, as they were tortured and interrogated." He went on to say, "My number would be called out, and I would have to go to the gate. They chained me, and put a bag over my head, dragging me off for my own turn. They would force me to my knees for questioning. They would threaten me with more torture." Deghayes was seized in Pakistan in April 2002 by armed local intelligence officers but his lawyer says he was detained as a result of mistaken identity. Attorney Clive Stafford Smith said of his client, "He has been treated worse in Guantanamo than any other person I have come across."

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Tory MP Nicholas Soames wrote to me today saying that he will certainly take the matter up with the home secretary. Well with Soames' weight behind it perhaps something will be done.

My pupils were surprised and delighted.

Perhaps citizenship is all about showing people that they can make a difference.

And if Soames cannot achieve anything? Well on the one hand they have learnt a valuable lesson but Omar stays in prison in appalling conditions.

For a movement to succeed they need heroes and heroines like Rosa Parks ("the woman who sat down on a bus and started a revolution") and a mass movement for justice. We have the brave individuals. What we need is the mass movement for justice.

Now more than ever.

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