Politics and Prose hosted a book discussion on Friday evening, however the
author did not attend.
The event centered on the newly released Guantánamo Diary and its author, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, could not attend because he has been imprisoned in the US
military facility since 2002. His lawyer, Nancy Hollander, and Hina Shamsi, director of
the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, led the discussion.
“What we want to do is really bring home to people Mohamedou’s story,” Shamsi
said. “The story that Mohamedou wanted told himself and show the injustice and
unlawful nature of his ongoing detention.”
Slahi is a Mauritanian citizen who allegedly supported al-Qaida in its attempt to
overthrow the communist Afghani government in the early 90’s. Slahi contends he left
Afghanistan in 1992 and cut off all ties to al-Qaida, however the US government believes
that he kept in contact with his former comrades. He was initially brought in for questioning by the US government via Senegalese authorities for suspected ties to the
Millennium Plot in 2000, in which an Algerian-Canadian al-Qaida operative attempted to
bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
Slahi cooperated with American authorities in Mauritania and was eventually
extradited to detainment facilities in Jordan and Afghanistan until finally reaching
Guantanamo Bay in August of 2002. Since then, he has continuously campaigned for his
release, citing lack of evidence for his case and regularly being subjected to torture.
Nancy Hollander has represented Slahi pro bono for a decade.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I really don’t want to be doing it for 11,” Hollander said.
In 2010, a district court judge ordered Slahi’s release, however the Department of
Justice appealed the decision. Proceedings are ongoing, but Hollander made it clear that
she will stand by Slahi and see to his release.
She and Shamsi also aided in the publication of Guantánamo Diary, which recalls
Slahi’s detention in graphic detail. As a result of the sensitive nature of the information,
parts of the book have been redacted at the request of the US government.
The book, which is the first to be released by an active inmate of Guantanamo
Bay, is dedicated to Slahi’s mother, who died during his detention in 2013. Proceeds
from the book are being gathered in a trust for Slahi. However, he has his own ideas on
distributing the funds.
“He wants to get all of the people of college age in his family educated, and if
there’s enough money, start a foundation to actually educate girls in Mauritania,”
Despite Slahi’s experience, his legal team says that he bears no resentment toward
his captors. Politics and Prose owner Stephen Graham, who moderated the discussion,
described Slahi’s disposition.
“He dreams to one day sit with all of them around a cup of tea after having
learned so much from one another.”