Jamal Udeen al-Harith — a Manchester-born British national of Jamaican descent, formerly known as Ronald Fiddler before his conversion to Islam in the early 1990s — was the recipient of up to £1 million in British taxpayers’ money as compensation for the British government’s alleged complicity in his rendition to — and detention at — the United States’ naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Al-Harith’s Guantanamo file, part of a dump obtained by the Guardian, says the U.S. shipped him to Camp X-Ray following his arrest in Kandahar, Afghanistan, “because he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”.
His file also purports that he travelled to Sudan in 1992 with a well-known Al-Qaeda operative named Abu Bakr — this is around the same time that Osama Bin Laden and his network was active there.
Despite these assertions, however, the implication made by the allocation of such a hefty out-of-court award is almost certainly one of al-Harith’s innocence, or at least a validation of his claim to be — and yet, last week, the twisted 50-year-old blew himself up in an ISIS suicide mission to kill Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, Iraq.
Quite rightly, media reports have focused almost explicitly on al-Harith’s final actions and on the absurd governmental oversight that enabled a known potential extremist to not only receive such an outrageously large sum of taxpayers’ money, but to travel to the Middle East to execute attacks of his own.
But little attention has been given to al-Harith’s treatment at the hands of the Americans — and whilst it’s impossible to ignore the evidence that enhanced interrogation techniques were utilized at Camp X-Ray, it must be asked: what happened to al-Harith that was so dreadful that compelled Tony Blair’s Labour government to dole out almost £1 million to this man?
And then there's this anecdote — from The Men Who Stare At Goats, by acclaimed journalist and author Jon Ronson, first published in 2004. Ronson sat down with al-Harith for an in-depth interview in June of that year. The two men discussed al-Harith’s detainment, the “shackles”, “the beatings” — and this remarkable snippet:
Jamal used his time inside the Brown Block to do stretching exercises [this] made the interrogators more angry, but instead of beating him, or threatening him, they did something very odd indeed.
A military intelligence officer brought a ghetto blaster into his room. He put it on the floor in the corner. He said, "Here’s a great girl band doing Fleetwood Mac songs."
He didn’t blast the CD at Jamal. This wasn’t sleep deprivation […] Instead, the agent simply put it on at normal volume.
"He put it on," said Jamal, "and he left." [...]
This sounded to me like the tip of a very strange iceberg.
"And what happened next?" I asked.
"When the CD was finished, he came back into the room and said, ‘You might like this’. And he put on Kris Kristofferson’s greatest hits. Normal volume. And he left the room again. And then, when that was finished, he came back and said, ‘Here’s a Matchbox Twenty CD.'"
"Was he doing it for entertainment purposes?" I asked.
"It’s interrogation," said Jamal. "I don’t think they were trying to entertain me."
Is the recipient of such treatment worthy of a £1 million compensation settlement? Feel free to let us know in the comments section.