Sami Muhyideen al-Haj

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Al-Haj, a Sudanese national and assistant cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was detained by Pakistani forces after he and an Al-Jazeera reporter attempted to re-enter southern Afghanistan at the Chaman border crossing in Pakistan. About a month later, he was handed over to U.S. forces and eventually sent to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in June 2002.

According to declassified U.S. military documents, al-Haj was accused of being a financial courier for Chechen rebels and assisting al-Qaeda and extremist figures. But al-Haj has not been convicted or charged with a crime, and the military has not publicly disclosed any evidence against him.

Al-Haj’s London-based lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, maintained that his client’s continued detention was political. He said U.S. interrogators have not focused on al-Haj’s alleged activities but instead on obtaining intelligence on Al-Jazeera and its staff. U.S. military interrogators allegedly told al-Haj that he would be released if he agreed to inform U.S. intelligence authorities about the satellite news network’s activities, Stafford Smith said. Al-Haj refused.

During an Administrative Review Board hearing in September 2007, U.S. military authorities cited the cameraman’s Al-Jazeera training as evidence of terrorist involvement, according to Stafford Smith. The lawyer, who is barred from attending such proceedings, based his comments on a review of the hearing transcript. The military hearings determine whether a prisoner should continue to be held.