Yemeni Spent 13 Years at Guantánamo because a U.S. Soldier Confused the Name of a Village with Al-Qaeda

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Emad Hassan (photo: Dept. of Defense)

A single name lost in translation cost Emad Hassan 13 years of freedom.


The Yemeni was in his early twenties when he traveled to Pakistan in 2001 to study the Koran at a small university.


But following the attacks on Sept. 11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S., Hassan was arrested by Pakistani security forces looking for possible al-Qaeda members to turn over to the American military.


Shipped to Afghanistan, Hassan was held prisoner by U.S. soldiers and interrogated. The American grilling Hassan relied on an interpreter who spoke broken Arabic, which proved tragic for the young Yemeni.


Asked if he had any connection with al-Qaeda, Hassan said yes. But it was not the terrorist group he was admitting to being familiar with. In Yemen, not far from Hassan’s hometown, is a village called Al-Qa’idah. It was this place he was responding to, not al-Qaeda. But the translator didn’t realize the mistake, and the American soldier interrogating Hassan had all he needed.


Hassan was shipped to Guantánamo, where he was cleared for release in 2009 but remained until June of this year, when he was released in Oman.


“What had started as a comic misunderstanding became a surreal odyssey through the dark side of America’s war on terror,” Lauren Walker wrote at Newsweek.


According to the human rights group Reprieve, Hassan was “one of the first detainees to go on a peaceful hunger strike in 2007. He remained on hunger strike until the day he was freed.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

How a Botched Translation Landed Emad Hassan in Gitmo (by Lauren Walker, Newsweek)

Emad Hassan (Reprieve)

Detainee Transfer Announced (Department of Defense) 


jason 8 years ago
This guy could have been freed early on if he had been entitled to a lawyer and a hearing. This is a perfect example why everyone should have the right to a fair trial.

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