Who is Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi? A profile of a Guantanamo detainee

Who is Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi? A profile of a Guantanamo detainee
Dispatches from Guantanamo: Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi has been held at the infamous prison camp for 12 years. The military judge has just set his trial date for February 2020.
5 min read
28 January, 2019
The prisoner is accused of commanding al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan [Defense team handout]
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi has been held at Guantanamo prison camp for 12 years. His ongoing health problems had slowed the case, but Military Commission Judge Libretto has just set a trial date for February 2020.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 57, was born in Mosul, Iraq. He has a paramilitary background, and served as a part of Saddam Hussein's army from 1980-1988 as a non-commissioned officer.

He is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and others as part of al-Qaeda's campaign against the US military, following its post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda fighters under his command are alleged to have committed a series of attacks on US and allied troops, as well as civilian aid workers.

His charge sheet alleges that he:

1996: Commanded al-Qaeda's terrorist training camp near Afghanistan.

1999: Swore an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

1999: Began serving as an al-Qaeda liaison to the Taliban.

2000: Began serving as a member of al-Qaeda's senior advisory council.

2001: Led a group of al-Qaeda operatives assisting Taliban fighters in the destruction of famed Buddha statues, Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

2002-2004: Directed, funded, supplied and oversaw al-Qaeda's operations against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The communal dining area in one of the
cell blocks [DoD handout] 

2002-2004: Coordinated al-Qaeda's operations with Taliban.

2002: Plotted with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to assassinate Pakistani President Prevez Musharraf.

2002-2004: Directed co-conspirators to carry out a series of attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, killing and injuring US service members, German, Canadian military members and civilians.

2006: Under Osama bin Laden, began to travel to Iraq to advise and assist with al-Qaeda Iraq's insurgency.

2006: In trying to travel undetected to Iraq, Hadi presented a fraudulent passport in Turkey.

2006: Applied for asylum in Turkey under a false name. Request was denied.

His charge sheet lists 11 aliases for him, but Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi announced through his defence team in 2016 that his true name is Nashwan al-Tamir.

Hadi was captured in Turkey in October 2006 and held in CIA detention at an unknown location for about 170 days. A Senate Intelligence Committee report says that he did not undergo "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" during this time. 

He was transferred from CIA detention to Guantanamo Bay in April 2007.  

He is classed as a 'High Value Detainee', which the Pentagon defines as "a suspected terrorist leader and operative captured during the War on Terrorism that has been held and questioned outside the US, in a separate programme operated by the CIA". There are currently 15 HVDs at Guantanamo.

An outdoor 'recreation area' in one of the cell blocks, 2011 [DoD handout]

The US government is seeking to charge him with Denying quarter, Attacking protected property, Use (and Attempted use of) treachery, and Conspiracy. The prosecution is seeking life imprisonment. Hadi's is the only non-capital prosecution at Guantanamo.

According to his lawyers, he arrived in Guantanamo with a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease which was not properly cared for until the issue became an acute crisis. He has undergone five spinal surgeries in the space of eight months, since September 2017.

Hadi has repeatedly stated that he wishes to be present at hearings, but his poor health has on numerous occasions stopped him from attending.

Hadi experiences chronic back pain and muscle spasms. At the November session Hadi was experiencing chronic pain and muscle spasms in court. Since then, a hospital bed has been put in the courtroom, as well as a walker, a hospital chair and the option of frequent breaks.

He regularly takes Valium and Percocet, an opiate painkiller. 

He has in the past been subject to a "Forced Cell Extraction", but his doctors have since advised against this, and the judge has agreed.

An arrow on the floor of each cell and in communal areas indicates
the direction of Mecca [DoD handout]

The Pentagon is shipping a large, specially adapted holding cell to Guantanamo for him to be placed in the vicinity of the courtroom. It will be equipped to view proceedings, and could essentially become an extension of the courtroom for the purposes of hearings and the trial.

Hadi is currently held at top secret Camp 7. This detention facility does not feature on the official press tour, and Hadi's lawyers have not been allowed to meet with him there, or to view his cell. The camp's exact location is classified and the Department of Defense declined to give the dimensions of his cell for reasons of operational security.

Hadi gets up around 6 or 7am and challenges himself to carry out the basic tasks of a daily routine. He spends time in the communal area with "the brothers". He prays sitting down in his hospital chair, spends time reading, and sometimes watches a film, according to testimony from the Senior Medical Officer.

The perimeter fence surrounding detention Camps 5 and 6 [DoD handout]

Detainee cells have an arrow indicating the direction of Mecca and time to pray undisturbed, according to DoD documentation. It also states that inmates have access to a library with over 33,000 books and films, as well as classes including languages, life skills and art.

Existing facilities in Camp 7 are 'deteriorating rapidly', according to a February 2018 army document. The Trump administration is seeking $69 million from Congress to replace it, something the Department of Defence had denied in 2015 under an Obama administration trying to close Guantanamo.

Katy Stone is in Guantanamo Bay to cover pre-trial hearings of alleged al-Qaeda operatives for The New Arab. Follow her on Twitter: @KatyRoseStone