70-year-old Saifullah Paracha has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the last thirteen years and has never been charged. His lawyer tried to give him a copy of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: Turning Tragedy into Hope for a Better World, a book published in January 2003, which focuses on how the many relatives of 9/11 victims have responded to the terrorist attack by promoting peace and seeking non-violence. Paracha, the oldest prisoner at the detention camp, has been refused permission to read the pacifist book.
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The book, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, discusses the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It’s shameful that the authorities at Guantanamo are banning books – a policy rightly associated with the most oppressive regimes in history,” said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, a lawyer who represents Mr. Paracha. “We would like to know, what is so dangerous about the writings of these bereaved families of victims, who espouse the non-violent teachings of Martin Luther King?”
Mr. Paracha, who was originally a businessman from Karachi, Pakistan, told his lawyers he believes officials are engaging in “collective punishment” against all prisoners, in retribution for an ongoing hunger strike, of which Paracha is not participating in.
Officials at Guantanamo Bay declined to explain why the book was deemed inappropriate. Navy Commander Anne Leanos, a spokesperson for the detainment camp, said “The Joint Task Force has a standard operating procedure for reviewing items donated to the detainee library. We do not provide details of our standard operating procedures.”
David Potorti, one of the editors of the book, lost his brother Jim in the North Tower. In the aftermath, he tried to make sense of the tragedy and consider the impact on both United States families and the families of the Afghan civilians who were killed in the following military invasions. He also helped found the group September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. He, and many others, found that “violence was not the answer.”
Potorti continued, saying he could think of no reason why a prisoner at the camp, or anyone else, should be prevented from reading the book unless “the powers that be don’t want us to reduce tension and it is better for them that we stay fearful. The whole thing stinks. I think Gitmo should not exist. It’s obvious the military justice system is not capable of dealing with these cases. It would be much better if they were dealt with by our [regular] judicial system. It would be a lot quicker.”
Maybe someone should tell that to the United States government…
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