U.S. officials have accused the two soldiers of unauthorized contact with the hundreds of men imprisoned there. Washington is seeking to link them to the Syrian government.
Senior Airman Ahmad Al-Halabi, 24, of Detroit, was arrested July 23 and sent to a prison at the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. He faces 32 criminal charges, the most serious of whichespionage and aiding the enemycarry a possible death sentence.
Al-Halabi, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Syria, had enlisted in the Air Force in 2000. He worked for nine months at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo as an Arabic-language translator. He is accused by the Air Force of sending e-mail with information about some of the men imprisoned there to unauthorized person or persons whom he…knew to be the enemy. The charges do not specify who the enemy is.
The military conducted a secret search of al-Halabis personal belongings before arresting him and claim they found some 180 messages from men being held at the camp as well as classified Defense Department documents related to the detainees at Guantánamo, the Associated Press reported.
The implication, AP reported September 25, is that al-Halabi was helping prisoners communicate among themselves and with the outside world.
According to Lance Wega of the Air Forcess Office of Special Investigations, al-Halabi made statements criticizing United States policy with regard to the detainees and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He added that al-Halabi expressed sympathy for and has had unauthorized contact with the detainees. Such alleged contacts included giving prisoners baklava desserts.
Investigators are seeking to link al-Halabi to the Syrian government, charging him with failing to report improper contact with the Syrian Embassy. Al-Halabi says his contact with the Syrian Embassy was related to a trip to Syria he planned in late July to get married.
Syria is one of the countries that Washington has targeted as a sponsor of terrorism.
The second soldier arrested, Capt. Yousef Yee, was detained September 10 as he got off a plane in Jacksonville, Florida. He had been stationed at Camp Delta as an Army chaplain since November of last year.
Although no charges have been filed against him, Yee is being held at a military prison in Charleston, South Carolinathe same prison where Abdullah Al Muhajir, also known as José Padilla, and Yaser Esam Hamdi are locked up. Labeled enemy combatants by Washington, the two men have been held incommunicado, without charges or the right to due process, since their arrests in May 2002 and November 2001, respectively.
A New York Times article reported that Yee was allegedly carrying sketches or diagrams of the U.S. concentration camp at the time of his arrest. CNN reported that, according to U.S. officials, he had a list of the names of some of the men imprisoned there, as well as the names of some of their interrogators.
Big-business press reports have also linked Yee, a native of Springfield, New Jersey, whose parents are Chinese immigrants, to the Syrian government and point to a visit there in the early 1990s following his conversion to Islam.
Almost three weeks after the military authorities put Yee behind bars, FBI officers arrested Ahmed Mehalba, a civilian translator at the base. Immigration officials claimed to have found classified documents related to Guantánamo when they searched him at Logan Airport in Boston after he returned from a trip to Cairo, Egypt.
Two other yet unnamed members of the U.S. military are reportedly under investigation. According to CNN, they are a U.S. Navy sailor and another member of the Air Force. No details have been released.
U.S. authorities are holding 660 people from 43 countries in their Guantánamo prison camp, which was set up in January 2002 after the U.S. assault on Afghanistan. They have branded these prisoners, who were arrested in Afghanistan or other countries, enemy combatants and are holding them without charges or the right to due process.
Camp Delta has more than 1,000 eight-foot-by-six foot cells, and the Army has plans to construct more. A medium-security unit has been built for those who cooperate with the high-pressure interrogation process. In a September 24 interview with 60 Minutes II, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who runs the prison, gave a picture of what the prisoners face.
We interrogate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Miller said. We dont talk about the operational measures that we use, but I will tell you, everything we do, our nation can be proud of.
The interviewer noted that Miller did claim interrogators dont use physical coercion. And, he said, Pentagon rules limit the length of interrogations to no more than 16 straight hours. The three juveniles at Camp Iguana, Miller says, are de-briefed, not interrogated.
Camp Iguana is a section of the concentration camp set up for prisoners under the age of 15. In May of this year it was announced that the detainees included one 13-year-old, one 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds, and one 16-year-old, as well as an 88- and 98-year-old,
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