Quirky letters from Guntanamo prisoner describe desire to do ‘Gangnam Style’

Jan 2, 2013, 11:00 AM | Updated: Jan 25, 2013, 10:57 am

This Oct. 8, 2012 photo taken by the International Red Cross and provided by the family of Muhammed Rahim al-Afghani, shows Muhammed Rahim al-Afghani at Guantanamo Bay prison at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. His knowledge of western pop culture has started turning heads. (AP Photo/International Red Cross via Rahim family)

(AP Photo/International Red Cross via Rahim family)

It’s not necessarily who you would expect to be up on pop culture, to know the latest with Howard Stern or Fox News. But a prisoner at Guantanamo is getting some attention for funny letters citing pop culture memes like Gangnam style.

In a letter from prisoner Mohammed Rahim al-Afghani to his attorney, Carlos Warner, Rahim wrote “I like this new song Gangnam Style. I want to do the dance for you but cannot because of my shackles.”

In another letter, the multilingual Rahim shows some familiarity with American slang. He tells his lawyer, most likely in jest, that he has adopted a banana rat, a rodent commonly spotted around the U.S. base in Cuba. “Tell the guards to leave my friend alone. They need to chillax.”

Rahim’s “quirky” letters are turning a lot of heads.

Rahim became the last prisoner sent to Guantanamo, nearly five years ago. He was accused of helping Osama bin Laden elude capture, and the CIA had interrogated him for months at an undisclosed location before he was locked away in Guantanamo’s Camp 7, a prison unit shrouded in secrecy that holds about 15 men who have been designated “high value” detainees by the U.S. government.

Warner, his attorney cannot confirm or deny the allegations because he has signed top secret agreements with the government. He represents 12 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo.

Warner told KIRO Radio’s KIRO Radio’s Ross & Burbank Show that Guantanamo is “a legal no-man’s land.”

“There have been many men there for 10 years or more, and they’ve never had a court appearance.”

Which means that for now, even if Rhahim wants to imitate PSY and do “Gangnam Style,” he can’t take his shackles off.

“I would not be opposed to him being unshackled when we’re meeting – or even dancing with him,” says Warner.

Warner brings him magazines from his home, which means they’re reading the same things: Rolling Stone, The Economist, Newsweek. Rahim also listens to the Howard Stern Show.

To Warner, a federal public defender for the Northern District of Ohio, the letters humanize a man who he contends has been demonized by U.S. authorities, who allege he worked as a translator and assistant to bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders. The lawyer says the letters demonstrate a surprising amount of resilience.

There have been no charges made against Rahim. The U.S. military will not say when or if he will be charged. His name does not appear on the list of detainees who have been cleared for release from Guantanamo and his name was not among those mentioned as possible candidates for an exchange with the Taliban as part of a peace deal.

Warner wants Rahim to have his day in court, as he would in the United States, to rebut the evidence.

“One great thing about our country, we don’t just run with what the government tells us. We ask questions, and hopefully again that’s something people will do. Not just with this particular client but with all the men that are detained there.”

You can sign Warner’s petition to support the closure of Guantanamo here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ross and Burbank


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Quirky letters from Guntanamo prisoner describe desire to do ‘Gangnam Style’