GUANTANAMO ISN 3148
AFGHAN NATIONAL DETAINED FOR 14 YEARS
WITHOUT CHARGE OR TRIAL IN GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
Name: Asadullah Haroon
Held: without legal process since 2007
Current status: NVD (No Value Detainee) Asad was finally cleared for release by the Periodic Review Board on 7th October 2021. He also won his habeas case, on 18th October, officially concluding that he is illegally held. He awaits a release date.
Updated: 25th October 2021
Asadullah Haroon is the last ‘no value detainee’ (NVD) Afghan national who the U.S. has detained without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay since he was snatched from Pakistan in June 2007.
Asad was born in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in 1983 but, since his family fled the Soviet war, his childhood was spent in Pakistan in two Hezb-i-Islami (HIA) run camps for Afghan refugees. Despite the dire conditions, he earned a four-year undergraduate degree in economics from the Jalalabad State University. He is fluent in five languages: Pashto, Dari, Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi and now speaks very good English as well. Asad began a small business, married, and has a daughter, Maryam. He ran errands for HIA but had great dislike for what Al Qaida had brought to his country. In 2007, he became one of the thousands swept up in U.S. raids, and was taken to Bagram Air Force Base and ultimately, to Guantánamo Bay, where he endured torture and remains today. For years, his family feared him dead, unaware that he was in U.S. detention.
Detention in Guantánamo
Asadullah Haroon is identified by the U.S. Government as “Haroon al-Afghani,” ISN 3148, and is the last NVD Afghan national detained by the U.S., without charge or trial, in Guantánamo Bay, since June 2007. There were once 206 NVD Afghans in Gitmo and to date, 205 have been released, leaving Asad. In the 14 years since Asad was rendered to Bagram Air Force Base and then to Guantánamo, the U.S. has never charged him with a crime, nor provided him with any process resembling a trial.
With increasing desperation, he sent an estimated 900 letters requesting help, before finally Clive Stafford Smith and the Washington firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss took his case pro bono publico (without payment). At this point, Donald Trump was about to become President, making his release impossible for the duration of that administration. The U.S. government’s basis for Asad’s detention was his membership in HIA. There is no contention that he ever did anything violent or killed anyone, even though HIA was at war with the U.S.. Asad’s association with HIA was by default through his upbringing in a series of HIA refugee camps. In September 2016, HIA struck a formal peace agreement with the Afghan government, with the consent of the U.S., and at this point, any excuse for holding Asad should have been negated.
The Case for his Release
In August 2019, Clive Stafford Smith visited Kabul to raise his case with the authorities and seek his return to Afghanistan. Nobody there was against it. Everyone in Afghanistan wants Asad home. Two dozen tribal elders, as well as a senator, had already signed a letter in 2016 attesting to Asad’s innocence and calling for him to be released to his family. In 2020, the U.S.-installed Afghan government filed a powerful amicus brief on his behalf. The Taliban recently took note of his plight (as an Afghan, as he has never been a member of the Taliban) and demanded his release during the Doha peace negotiations. Asad remains confident in the power of public will to influence government action, stating: “The public always has the biggest power over the government… I always believe this… I believe in the power of the people and of culture to change government actions.”
Cleared for Release
In 2021 Asad had hearings both on his habeas case in Washington, and his Periodic Review Board in Guantánamo. He was cleared for release by the PRB on October 7th, 2021, and he won his habeas case on October 18th. The PRB decision indicates a consensus among six main U.S. intelligence agencies that he is no threat. While the habeas decision is classified, what it means is that he is illegally held. Unfortunately recent events in Afghanistan means the Biden Administration may not be as open to repatriating Asad to Kabul as it once was, though he would be perfectly safe there as a victim of 14 years in illegal U.S. detention.
Plans for the Future
Asad retains hope that he will be reunited with his family and he has developed various plans for the future. Contrary to the Western stereotype of the conservative Afghans, his main goal is to see his daughter Maryam (who he has not seen since she was just two months old) achieve her dreams. She wants to be a doctor, and Asad is very grateful to Alex Dorman – an American who has been raising funds to ensure that she can continue her education. She currently has a private tutor in Kabul, pending her return to Asad’s extended family in the Pakistan camp. 3DC volunteer Alex Dorman has been raising funds to help Maryam with her education – which is more expensive in Afghanistan than elsewhere given the impact of 20 years of American occupation. Maryam wants to become a doctor. Donations and messages of support can be sent to either Asad, or Maryam’s education, via firstname.lastname@example.org