Mohammed El Gharani

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Mohammed was among the youngest prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. Abducted and rendered to the prison camp at just 14 years old, he was held there without charge or trial for seven years. Reprieve lawyers secured a federal court judgment ordering his release in January 2009. 

Mohammed grew up in Saudi Arabia, after his parents immigrated from Chad in search of a better life. He suffered discrimination as a Chadian, and was denied schooling, so he went to Pakistan to learn English and computer studies. While praying in a mosque, he was rounded up and arrested by Pakistani police and handed over to US forces.

Mohammed was taken to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where he was kept naked for days and racially abused. One of the first words that Mohammed learnt in English was “nigger.”

After two months of detention in Afghanistan, Mohammed was transferred to Guantánamo Bay. Mohammed’s US captors abused him so badly that he tried to commit suicide twice while in Guantánamo.

Although only a child, Mohammed was abused in the same way as the other prisoners. He was deprived of sleep and repeatedly moved between cells to prevent him from resting. He was kept in freezing conditions and constantly blasted with music and strobe lights. The guards slammed Mohammed’s head to the floor, knocking out two teeth. An interrogator stubbed out his cigarette on his arm.

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He was falsely accused of fighting for the Taliban in Tora Bora and being a member of a London-based al-Qaeda cell. He had never visited either Afghanistan or the UK. The evidence used to keep Mohammed in Guantánamo Bay for seven and a half years was based purely on statements from two other prisoners. Their claims were later found to be unreliable and inconsistent with each other.

Reprieve lawyers helped Mohammed fight his ‘enemy combatant’ status. In 2009 we won a court order for his release.

“I am free now. I enjoy being free… freedom is beautiful.”
-Mohammed el Gharani

Mohammed was returned to Chad, where he was born, later that year. Since then, Mohammed has been making steady progress with the help of Reprieve’s Life After Guantánamo rehabilitation team. Mohammed missed out on an education, but he loves reading, particularly about history, and was keen to learn as much as possible after his release. In 2009 hundreds of Reprieve supporters responded by sending books to Mohammed in Chad. In the video on the right he expresses his thanks.Mohammed’s release shows what we can achieve together, but there are many more prisoners who need our help.

Read about Reprieve’s unique Life After Guantánamo program here.

HABEAS CORPUS at the Park Avenue Armory:
Back in October 2015, Mohammed el Gharani collaborated with the artist Laurie Anderson on HABEAS CORPUS, an extraordinary installation at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Mohammed appeared ‘virtually’ from West Africa via innovative 3D imaging and livestreaming techniques, representing the first real-time meeting between him and the American public. See the video of the installation below.

Instead of spending his teenage years in school, Mohammed was forced to try to survive in a military prison. Never once did the US military treat Mohammed like the child he was. We hope that now he has been released, Mohammed will be able to get the education he was denied for so long, and finally build a life for himself.
-Reprieve attorney Cori Crider



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