Jamal Udeen Al-Harith

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Jamal Udeen Al-Harith, born Ronald Fiddler[1] (born 20 November 1966) is a British citizen who was held in extrajudicial detention as a suspected enemy combatant in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba for more than two years.[2] Al-Harith's Guantanamo Internment Serial Number was 490. He was born in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Together with the Tipton Three, he was among five British citizens repatriated in March 2004 and the next day released by British authorities without charge.[1] That year, he was a party to Rasul v. Rumsfeld, which sued the United States government and the military chain of command for its interrogation tactics. The case was finally dismissed in 2009 after being remanded by the United States Supreme Court to the US District Court for the District of Columbia, on grounds of the government officials having had "limited immunity" at the time. In December 2009, the US Supreme Court declined to accept the case for hearing on appeal.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born Ronald Fiddler in 1966 in Manchester, England, to parents who had migrated from Jamaica. He has a sister Maxine Fiddler.[3] Fiddler attended local schools. He became a web designer, working in Manchester.[1]

Conversion and travels[edit]

About 1994, Fiddler converted to Islam and officially changed his name to Jamal Udeen Al-Harith.[1]

Australia[edit]

Several years later, Al-Harith started an Internet relationship with Samantha Cook, who lived in Perth, Australia. He traveled there in early 2000 to meet her in person. She is the daughter of the Australian Senator Peter Cook. After their relationship ended in July 2000,[1] he returned to Manchester and his work.

Travel and detention[edit]

After some time back in Manchester, in 2002 Al-Harith traveled to Pakistan for a backpacking trip. While there, he paid a truck driver to take him to Iran. The truck was stopped when he passed near the Afghan border. Taliban guards, seeing his British passport, arrested him as a British spy, which was typical of their treatment of foreigners.[1]

American troops discovered Al-Harith among numerous foreigners held by the Taliban in jail in Kandahar and released him. He was being aided by the Red Cross to make arrangements to return to Britain. They enabled him to call his family in Britain, whom he told he would be soon flying home. The Red Cross had arranged with the British embassy to fly him out from the American airbase to Kabul to meet the British representative.

But, Al-Harith was not allowed to leave Kabul because Americans had become suspicious about the purpose of his travels in the region. Not believing his explanations, they arrested him as a suspected enemy combatant and transported him to Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The military held him there and interrogated him for more than two years without charges. He said he suffered "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment".[1]

The Americans notified the Australian government of Al-Harith's detention because he had recently been in the country. The ASIO carried out an investigation of his activities while in the country and concluded that he was not a security risk.[1]

He was among nine British citizens who were held as detainees at Guantanamo. Eventually he was interviewed by MI5 and the British Foreign Office, as well as American officials.

Repatriation and release[edit]

In March 2004, Al-Harith was among five British citizens, including the Tipton Three, who were released and repatriated to the United Kingdom.[1] The next day, all were released by British authorities without charges.[1]

Main article: Tipton Three
Main article: Rasul v. Rumsfeld

After being released, Al-Harith joined the British plaintiffs Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, and Ruhal Ahmed (the Tipton Three), all former Guantánamo Bay detainees, in Rasul v. Rumsfeld, to sue Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004. They charged that illegal interrogation tactics, including torture and religious abuse, were permitted to be used against them by Secretary Rumsfeld and the military chain of command. They were aided by representation by the Center for Constitutional Rights and a private law firm.

The case went through several levels of hearings: the US District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the US Supreme Court. Following the US Supreme Court's decision of Boumediene v. Bush (2008), which ruled that detainees had the right to access federal courts directly, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the US District Court. It dismissed the case in 2009 on the grounds of "limited immunity" for government officials, holding that at the time in question, the courts had not clearly established that torture was prohibited in the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo. (This was established by law in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.) In December 2009, the US Supreme Court declined to accept the case for hearing on appeal.

Because of his imprisonment as a "terrorist," Al-Harith has had difficulty getting work in Britain. His sister has said that he is struggling to get back to his life.[3]

Al-Harith and other former Taliban prisoners[edit]

Al-Harith was one of nine former Taliban prisoners whom the Associated Press identified as having been freed from Taliban custody only to be taken up into United States military custody. He was among the Kandahar Five, detainees who had all been jailed previously in the Kandahar prison. When the Northern Alliance liberated the prison in December 2001, they freed 1500 men.[4]

See also[edit]

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