Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sometimes there's nothing left to say ...

The United States -- and Germany -- discovered quite quickly that the accusations against Kurnaz were groundless. And yet he was not released.

Der Spiegel published Cem Özdemir's story of meeting Murat Kurnaz after his release from Guantanamo. Cem is the vice chairman of the special investigative commission formed to clarify the extent of the German government's complicity with illegal CIA activities in Europe.

Twenty-four-year-old Murat Kurnaz spent five years as a detainee in the US military camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was wrongly identified as an accomplice of the Taliban and recently released.

How does one express one's sense of what that person must have experienced? The man in question is now 24 years old. During a period of almost five years -- a period during which I married, became a father and was elected into the European Parliament -- this man was effectively stripped of his rights and had to live in complete isolation, in conditions that have driven other detainees to commit suicide.

Murat Kurnaz once had a "normal" life too. He wanted to start a family in Germany, along with his Turkish fiancé. He had completed his apprenticeship as a shipbuilder. He played guitar in his free time and liked sports -- like many other people his age.

He was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," is what insiders in Washington say -- sometimes cynically, sometimes laconically. They know Kurnaz was innocent when he was apprehended and detained.

But wait, there's more to Murat's story: Just a few days after his release and return to his German hometown of Bremen, the Turkish general consulate in nearby Hanover got in touch with Kurnaz -- but not in order to join me in wishing him and his mother "gecmis olsun." (may it be over) Instead, the consulate reminded Kurnaz of his duty as a Turkish citizen -- that of doing his military service in Turkey.

The Germans, eager to add to their crime of leaving an innocent civilian in Guantanamo Bay then did this: He still has to visit several government offices in Bremen in order to secure his permanent German residency permit.

It's only following a November 2005 decision by Germany's constitutional court -- the highest legal instance in the country -- that Kurnaz can even be certain he hasn't already forfeited his residency permit. Because that's exactly what Bremen Interior Minister Thomas Röwekamp of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party claimed he had done.

Röwekamp added the incredible explanation that Kurnaz had missed the deadline for making a formal request for the extension of his permit, as required by law -- as if Bremen's alien registration office had a branch office at Guantánamo


wandering-woman said...

Heartbreaking. Boggles the mind.

Keep an eye on the news: FINALLY, some very stong (and morally ept) Republicans, John Warner and good old John McCain among them, are outright defying Bush and taking the Senate with them as he continues to look for ways to ignore the Geneva convention - even AFTER the Supreme Court ruling. Even Powell piped up after being silent for so long, and said NO, NO and NO.

I had this weird thought today - What must it feel like for John McCain, who spent 5 years as a POW in Vietnam, to have George who managed to get himself in the National Guard and never show up thanks to Daddy tell him it's not only okay but necessary not to guarantee human rights to prisoners of war? (and this poor guy you wrote about wasn't even that..)

paris parfait said...

Yes, as wandering woman said, it boggles the mind. Truly heartstopping in its brutality and careless disregard of the individual.

woman wandering said...

That is good news, Erin. I imagined Republicans as souless people, having never met one in real life. Colin Powell just seemed like someone who had accidently joined the wrong party.

I forgot to add, Murat was flown home in chains onboard a plane with something like 5 American soldiers guarding him ... absolute and incredible stupidity till the end.

Paris, I'm dragging out that book 'Women who wrote the war', now reading of the journalists arriving in the concentration camps and discovering what had gone on their ... sometimes I wonder if we really learned anything if the liberators can become monsters too.