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Former Guantánamo prisoner asks U.S. to review its founding ideals

Adel Hassan Hamad, who is suing the US government, claims that American values of freedom and democracy have been shaken.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 6, 2008

Khartoum, Sudan

It took US Army interrogators at Guantánamo Bay five years to reach the conclusion that Adel Hassan Hamad was exactly who he claimed to be: a hospital administrator in Pakistan. On Dec. 11, 2007, they put him back on a military cargo plane, hooded and handcuffed, and sent him back to his home to Sudan.

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Now Mr. Hamad says he'll sue the US government for compensation for those lost years – years where his family became impoverished and one daughter became sick and died. But he says it's not just about the money. He wants the US to return to what it used to be, a beacon of freedom.

"We don't want animosity, we just want to respect America again," says Hamad, speaking in English phrases he learned while in prison. "The American conscience and the American people need to return to the great concepts established by the Founding Fathers, of freedom, democracy, equality, and justice. All these values and even the justice system are being shaken, played with."

Accused – but never officially charged – with fighting against the US, Hamad and fellow Sudanese Salim Mahmud Adam are now fighting, through the US courts, for the rights they say they never received in the US military detention centers at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Hamad became famous as the "YouTube detainee," after his attorney, Steven Wax posted a first-ever video habeas corpus petition "Guantánamo Unclassified" on the Internet video site. Actor Martin Sheen, known for his liberal views and portrayal of President Josiah Bartlett on the TV program "West Wing," joined Hamad's cause, in a separate video, "Guantánamo Waiting for Justice."

Like many former inmates of Guantánamo, these two men tell stories of torture and abuse that have become so common as to lose their shock value. But they also share glimpses of American kindness, faith, and courage. Their legal efforts are intended to build on this common humanity and to restore US judicial principles. It's an ideal that other activists echo.