An 86-year-old woman has sued the Attorney General and the Ministry for the Interior, for allowing two ex-detainees from Guantanamo Bay to be resettled in Ghana.
Mrs Margaret Banful, who is a former conference officer at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, wants the Supreme Court to declare the move as highly risky and unconstitutional.
The two terror suspects: Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, have said they do not belong to any terrorist group.
They told GBC Radio’s Pascaline Adadevoh in an exclusive interview that not only do they love Ghana and Asamoah Gyan, but are also grateful to President John Mahama and the “good” people of Ghana for accepting to host them.
“We had been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us,” they complained in the interview, saying: “We have suffered but we are not looking for revenge.”
“We want to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully and we want to put our lives together. We are really happy for the warm reception that Ghana has given us. I like Ghanaian people because they are very good people, they are very polite, we are very, very excited to come here because we know some of the things about Ghana; first of all is Asamoah Gyan, we know him, we like him very much…even a lot of [the] detainees … like Ghanaians and as I told someone here [earlier], in 2010 [during] the World Cup, most of the people there [Guantanamo Bay] – I can say all of us – we were with Ghana and when Ghana beat America, we were very happy.
“…In the name of Allah, we thank the President and the good people of Ghana for the decision they made for accepting us. So, I just want the government to know and even the good people of Ghana that we are not part of any group or against, for example, al-Qaeda or [others] …We are happy we are here, we want to live very normal life. Allah bless you President [Mahama], and the people of Ghana,” they said.
The comments by the two came amidst remarks by an Islamic scholar, Dr Mustapha Hamid that by dint of accepting them, Ghana has now become a “legitimate target” of jihadists and terrorist groups in the world.
“What I am telling Hanna Tetteh [Minister of Foreign Affairs] is that this fundamentalist ideology, which they held when they were at Tora Bora, has further been accentuated by the 14 years of incarceration in Guantanamo.
“They [Jihadist groups] may not have anything against Ghana as a nation, but they certainly do have something against America, especially so because America has confessed that it had no evidence for which it incarcerated them for 14 years. A school of jihadist ideology is that: ‘The friend of your enemy is your enemy.’ That one is a non-negotiable aspect of the ideology that feeds al-Qaeda, Taliban, al-Shabab and Boko Haram, so we have shown by this act, which we believe to be an act of generosity and compassion, but in their mind, it is an act of complicity in the sense that we have shown ourselves to be allies of America. And Osama Bin Laden, who is, if you want, the ideologue of the jihadist movement, has stipulated this very clearly. He says that America and all its allies, including Israel and the rest of them, are all legitimate targets, so, I am putting it to you that it is not true that these people will see Ghana as intercessors. In fact, what we have done has just given us out as allies of America, and, therefore, we, in the eyes of jihadist ideology, have become legitimate targets,” Dr Hamid, who lectures at the University of Cape Coast told Bernard Avle on the Citi Breakfast Show on Monday.
The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC), as well as the Shia Muslim community in Ghana, have all condemned the decision to host the two in the small West African country. Just like these groups, ordinary Ghanaians have also expressed fears of possible terror attacks on Ghana as a result of the decision by President Mahama to host the two in Ghana.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, arrived in Ghana on Thursday January 7, 2016 for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Government of Ghana.
Their transfer is the first of an expected 17 such transfers approved for January, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were held for more than 13 years at the detention facility in Cuba. They were unanimously approved for transfer by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, according to a Pentagon statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
The task force is comprised of six departments and agencies charged with determining which detainees can be safely transferred from the facility.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the statement read.
“The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” it added.
Guantanamo Bay now holds 105 detainees. Fifty-nine are not eligible for transfer for security reasons.
Defence Secretary Ash Carter last month notified Congress that 17 detainees would be transferred from the facility to other nations throughout January. Fifteen of them were transferred last year.
Bin Atef, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket, was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia and fought with Osama Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade and was an admitted member of the Taliban. He was captured in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody about January 2002 after engaging in combat against the American-led coalition.
Like Bin Atef, Salih Al-Dhuby was born in Saudi Arabia and claims Yemeni citizenship, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket. The suspected Al-Qaida member was born in 1981 and was captured by Afghan forces in December 2001 following an explosion near Tora Bora. He’s been held in Guantanamo since May 2002.
President Barack Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo Bay facility since he was a candidate in 2008, but has struggled to do so amid Congressional opposition to move detainees to a prison in the United States. The 2016 National Defence Authorisation Act, passed in November, banned moving any detainees to the United States. Obama announced at the time he opposed that provision, but he signed the bill anyway.
Apart from the two religious groups, many prominent Ghanaians have also condemned the move.
International relations expert Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, for instance, has said it could open up the country to security threats. Also, a former presidential advisor in the Kufuor administration, Vicky Bright, has said Ghana, by accepting the detainees, was importing trouble to its shores. Former Deputy Minister for the Interior, K.T. Hammond has said the two should be sent back to Guantanamo Bay. The Minority in Parliament has also raised concerns about the failure of the presidency to consult the House over the matter.
Latest to join the fray is a Ghanaian solider in the British Army who says Ghanaians must rise up against the move.
“Ghanaians should come out of their comfort zones and say we don’t want to tolerate this,” Dr Robert Nesta Lartey, MCMI MIET, told Ekow Mensah-Shalders on Class91.3fm’s Executive Breakfast Show on Monday January 11.
According to the 4-time war veteran and aircraft engineer – who says he is one of few people to have worked on all five British Army Helicopters (aircraft) namely: Gazelle helicopter, Lynx helicopter, Highlander fixed wing, Defender fixed, and Apache helicopter – if the United States, which has a strong intelligence network and military might, is unable to house the two detainees, then what business does Ghana have accepting them?
Dr Nesta Lamptey, who served twice in Afghanistan, once in Iraq, once in Northern Ireland, and also worked with the UK Special Forces for two years fixing aircraft, said the Ghanaian authorities have done the country a disservice by accepting to host Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby.