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Lawyers for Saudi Detainees in Guantanamo Request More Information About Prisoners


The ruling by a U.S. federal appeals court that prisoners held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be granted access to lawyers is being followed closely around the world. Lawyers representing the families of more than 100 Saudi-born detainees are trying to get more information about the prisoners.

The U.S. administration says it has the right to hold the men indefinitely, without granting access to lawyers, because they were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are being held outside the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will rule on whether the prisoners should be given access to American courts. But that decision is not expected before next year.

In the meantime, a team of lawyers in Saudi Arabia has met with American officials to try to gain access to 124 Saudi-born men being held at Guantanamo.

Lawyer Ahmad Mazhar says his team is also pushing for more contact between the detainees and their families here in Saudi Arabia. He has even suggested using a form letter that would not pose a security risk, but could reassure families of the well being of the detainees.

"We know that, from the families here, they are finding it very difficult to contact the detainees," he explained. "And they are, some of them, spending six months to receive a message. And, we requested also to have - requested to open the facilities, to have telephone communications, and we requested also to have regular letters with a certain text written by the hand of the detainee, which prove to the families that the detainee is alive and can write."

Mr. Mazhar and four other lawyers representing the Saudi families met with U.S. State Department officials in Washington in September.

Mr. Mazhar says the lawyers have not received any response to their request to meet with the detainees. But he says they are cautiously optimistic after learning that an Australian lawyer had met with an Australian citizen being held in the Guantanamo Bay prison.

"We requested the authority to visit the detainees in Guantanamo, and they say it is not possible at this time," he said. "And, last week, we heard they allowed the Australian lawyer to visit. If it is possible, we want to go and visit our nationals there."

Mr. Mazhar says Saudi-born detainees charged with any crimes should be handed over to Saudi authorities for trial.

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