Abdul Halim Sadiqi (also known as Abdul Halim Sidiqi), who was 33 years old at the time of his capture, was one of many prisoners subjected to ludicrous allegations whose provenance was not disclosed, but which were clearly implausible. Sadiqi, who was married with a baby daughter, ran a small store in Pakistan. Caught up in the fall of Kunduz, after traveling to Afghanistan to look for his brother, he spent a year in Sheberghan and another three years attempting to convince the US authorities that he was not a military commander who ran a “network of madrassas,” through which he was able to recruit 2,000 fighters for al-Qaida, and that he had led this vast fighting force — which included “300 Arab al-Qaida operatives” — in combat against the Northern Alliance until he was captured in Kunduz.
In his review board hearing in November 2005, he said, “The person who made these allegations, either he was drunk or he doesn’t even have a brain,” and finally someone believed him. A Board Member told him, “I don’t believe that you were a mastermind, or a great general, or this person who could command 2,000 recruits to come with you on a moment’s notice. I believe you.”
In an interview conducted for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners that was published in 2008, Sadiqi (described as Abdul Haleem) repeated his story, telling a McClatchy reporter in Karachi that, when he “wanted to find his brother in Afghanistan in September 2001, he knew where to go first [and] visited the local chapter of [the Pakistani militant group] Jaish-e- Mohammed in his Pakistani town of Sadiqabad,” who gave him “a pass of sorts to travel to Afghanistan and meet with Jaish-e-Mohammed officials there.”
He explained that his brother, Abdullah, “was preparing to fight the Americans and their allies after running away from his madrassas,” and also said that he had found his brother “close to the Tajikistan border,” but were trapped in the city of Kunduz, the Taliban’s last stronghold in northern Afghanistan, as it fell to the Northern Alliance.
Quite where the US claim that he commanded 2,000 Pakistani and Arab fighters came from was not explained. McClatchy noted that, in his tribunal and review board at Guantánamo, it was alleged that he “drew many of those fighters from a network of 10 madrassas that he oversaw in Pakistan,” and that he “allegedly did so after he met with an al-Qaida logistics officer at the wedding of one of Osama bin Laden’s children in Kandahar in 2001.”
It was also noted that, in denying these allegations, he insisted “he was an innocent shopkeeper sent by his family to retrieve an errant brother,” and that “the charges were the result of bad information that Afghan troops had passed along.” He also “pointed out that he went though the trouble of getting a visa at the Afghan embassy and entering the country at a legal checkpoint,” which, as he noted, was “hardly the course of action of a militant commander.”
The Pakistani government refused to comment on his case, but McClatchy noted that Bashir Ahmad (ISN 1005, released in September 2004), who was seized with him, admitted that he had gone to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban, and, although Ahmad “wouldn’t say” what Haleem was doing at the time of his capture, “the fact that the two were arrested together” suggested to McClatchy that Haleem “may have traveled to Afghanistan with permission from Jaish-e Mohammed not to find his brother but to join him in fighting US troops.”
That, however, was a far cry form being a commander in charge of 2,000 soldiers, and, in reflecting on this, Tom Lasseter of McClatchy noted that Haleem, like a majority of the prisoners, “wasn’t captured by US soldiers,” but “was rounded up by Afghan troops loyal to warlords who made a small fortune selling their prisoners to the American military.” It was also noted, “The higher the profile of the prisoner, the more money the warlords could demand. An al-Qaida-affiliated commander, for instance, fetched a much higher price than an ordinary foot soldier.”
Furthermore, Haleem was held at Sheberghan, the prison run by Northern Alliance commander General Rashid Dostum, for 17 months after his capture, and when he was finally transferred to Bagram, interrogators “didn’t have access to witnesses who could describe what was happening” when he was seized, and “also weren’t in touch with local leaders from places such as Sadiqabad, Pakistan, who could have shed light on whether Haleem was a local jihadist leader or a grocer.” Instead, the case against him consisted of “questionable information passed on by warlords, testimony gathered in often-hostile interrogation sessions and information supplied by other detainees who wanted to curry favor with their captors.”
Speaking to McClatchy’s reporter in Karachi in June 2007, Haleem explained that, after his capture, he first had to survive the journey from Kunduz to Sheberghan, when the prisoners, who surrendered in their thousands, were transported to Sheberghan in container trucks, and hundreds — or even thousands — of prisoners died of suffocation, or by being shot through the sides of the containers by Northern Alliance soldiers, in what has become known as “the convoy of death.”
Haleem told McClatchy’s reporter that he’d been transported “in a metal shipping container with about 200 other men, many of whom died from suffocation or bullets that Afghan troops fired through the side of the box,” and explained, “When they opened the door we were in the middle of Sheberghan jail. We were all sitting on the dead bodies which were lying on the floor; they were lifeless. An arm was sticking up in the air here, a leg was sticking up in the air there.”
He also said that, in Sheberghan, the Afghan guards “occasionally came into his cell to punch him in the back of the head and kick him in the chest,” and at Bagram US soldiers “once threw him to the ground and kicked him in the head ‘like they were playing soccer.’” He also said that, although he “was never hit at Guantánamo,” the abuse there “was worse than a guard’s boot.” There, he said, interrogators “sent him repeatedly to isolation cells,” because “they thought he was lying to them.” The guards “stripped him naked and tossed him into the small rooms for a week, two weeks or, once, 25 days, and he came out filled with confusion and rage.”
He also said that “he thought often about his brother, Abdullah,” who had “died in the container that took them to Sheberghan, just another one of the bodies on the floor,” and added that “he began to have trouble sleeping and would go for weeks on end without sleeping through the night.” He also explained that he “often became violent, and many times got into fights with other detainees,” and, in conclusion, added that, eight months after his release, he still “woke up angry on most days,” and “hadn’t forgiven the Americans” for what they had done to him.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Sadiqi was a “Recommendation for Transfer to the Control of Another Country with Conditions (TWC), Subject to the Conclusion of an Acceptable Transfer Agreement,” dated September 28, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in 1968, and was “in good health,” although it was also noted that he “was seen by psychiatry for follow up after a suicide attempt,” and was also “treated for scrotal bleeding, genital pain, difficulty urinating, allergies, rashes and minor body aches.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted upfront that, although he “was previously assessed to be a high-level Taliban Commander and member of Al- Qaida,” further review of his file, “in conjunction with a thorough search of national-level counter-terrorism databases,” indicated that the was “not a Taliban Commander or a member of Al-Qaida,” and was “now assessed to be a probable Islamic extremist who traveled to Afghanistan for jihadist purposes.”
The Task Force also noted that he worked on a farm and as a store manager, and largely told the story Sadiqi later told to McClatchy — that he traveled to Afghanistan to find his brother Abdullah, locating him in Kunduz, and that the brothers then “found passage on a truck” leaving Kunduz, but, “[w]hile passing through a Northern Alliance checkpoint, the truck was stopped and searched by General Dostum’s Forces,” and Sadiqi and his brother “were taken into custody,” and “transported in a shipping container to Sheberghan Prison.” It was also noted bluntly, “Detainee’s brother did not survive.”
It was not recorded when he was sent to Bagram, but he was sent to Guantánamo on May 9, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Taliban Techniques, Tactics and Procedures (TTPS) for fighting enemy dispositions and routes that may still be in use, Taliban personalities [and] Activities in Pakistan centering on recruitment and anti-American sentiment.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force claimed, without providing anything resembling evidence, that he had “shown that he [was] a militant jihadist and [was] using deception to avoid providing incriminating evidence.” He was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk, as he is unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” It was also noted that he was “assessed as a moderate threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behaviour ha[d] been mostly compliant with limited hostility to the guard force and staff.”
As a result, Maj, Gen. Hood, updating a recommendation that he be retained in DoD control (dated November 24, 2003), recommended him for transfer “with conditions,” although he was not released for another 13 months.