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Omar Deghayes

Three inmates at Guantanamo Bay were freed yesterday and returned to Britain - where two of them were promptly arrested. Birmingham civil rights activist Dr David Nicholl who has been campaigning for one the captives muses on a curious day for justice.

I was closing down my computer at work, when the story broke - Omar Deghayes, the man who I, and others, had campaigned for years, was on his way back to the UK from Guantanamo.

I phoned up Amani, his sister immediately, to pass on my congratulations - she could barely speak, such was her relief and he was due to arrive at Luton airport in less than 2 hours, after being held without charge for almost 6 years, and blinded in one eye in Guantanamo.

I then phoned up Clive Stafford-Smith, the legal director for Reprieve, but only got his voicemail- he’s a busy guy and he didn’t have a bad day at the office (not only were three of his clients being freed from Guantanamo, another, the Glaswegian Kenny Richey, is being freed from a US jail where he has been on death row for 21 years for a murder he didn’t commit).

Already we are seeing evidence of the same ‘games’ being played by the authorities on Omar and the other 2 returning detainees have been detained on their arrival. Exactly the same process happened with Moazzam Begg on his return in 2005, yet to my knowledge, Moazzam hasn’t so much as had a parking ticket since then.

I have no problem with Omar’s arrest, if there is evidence to be heard, bring it on, in a proper court rather than a kangaroo court using torture in Guantanamo. Clearly from the US authorities point-of-view, they are keen to smear anyone in Guantanamo as much as possible, even those even the Americans admit pose no threat.

As I write, rumours are flying around that Omar Deghayes and Jamil El-Banna may be extradited to Spain. I suspect that this is part of the smear campaign but await developments.

As Omar returns, I reflect back on the 2 letters I wrote to him over almost 3 years. Since I have an off-the-wall sense of humour, I will admit that sending a recorded delivery letter addressed to Omar in Guantanamo was a little cheeky.

In my imagination, I had an image of a guard from the “Shawshank Redemption” shouting down the hall, “Letter for Omar, letter for Omar!” and Mr Deghayes having to sign for my letter. My joke back-fired, the letter was returned marked “Return to Sender”.

Clearly the guards at Guantanamo pay more attention to Elvis than a Morgan Freeman film. It seems ironic, that my second letter, a Christmas card, was sent earlier this week. Maybe this time the guards will forward his mail. Hopefully, I will get the chance to hand-deliver my letter in the not too distant future - you just can’t trust the post these days.

For more background on Omar Deghayes, click here

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