AFP / Metropolitan FilmExport
CINEMA – The story is hardly believable, and yet. “Designated guilty”, or “The Mauritanian” in its original version, which comes out on Wednesday July 14th at the cinema, does indeed tell the ordeal of a man, imprisoned from 2002 to 2016 in the sadly Guantanamo camp, without any charge against him. The latter was suspected, without proof, of having played a role in the organization of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Alongside Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch and Shailene Woodley, actor Tahar Rahim takes the lead. The interpretation of the one who currently sits on the jury of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival had earned him a nomination for the Golden Globes.
In nearly two hours, “Designated Guilty” tells a terrible story of injustice. Years of an ordeal that only recently ended for the man who inspired this legal drama. This man is Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian who is 50 years old today. For The HuffPost, he agreed to come back to this story which took him fourteen years of his life.
Delivered by its country to the United States
The opening scene of “Designated Guilty” takes place in Mauritania. It is during a party that the character played by Tahir Rahim is summoned by police officers to follow them. In fact, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was leaving work when he said he was “kidnapped” by the police. “They said they wanted to talk to me. My mom asked me if I knew why they wanted to see me. I laughed, she was so innocent, ”he says. He never saw his mother again.
The Mauritanian says he was arrested several times before this arrest. Having studied for a few years in Germany before 2001, and given his links with Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, he was suspected of having participated in the “Hamburg cell”. This German-based group of Islamists included several key figures from the September 11, 2001 attacks.
After the first acts of torture suffered in Jordan and Afghanistan, Mohamedou Ould Slahi joined the Guantanamo camp in August 2002, where the Bush administration said it wanted to concentrate the worst terrorists. In the film, the character of Tahar Rahim says he felt relief upon arriving in the United States, believing that this country “does not use fear to control people”. A feeling confirmed by the Mauritanian: “I was happy when I was told that I was going to Guantanamo. I told myself that the worst that could happen to me would be to spend a few months there, until they realized that I was innocent and that they released me ”.
Subjected to various acts of torture
In 2003, a “special” program was developed to make Mohamedou Ould Slahi speak. In his book The Guantánamo ID cards, he says he was interrogated every day for the first six years of his imprisonment. Until 2004, he was the victim of a series of abuses which included physical, psychological and sexual humiliation. We force him to stand for hours, we deprive him and then stuff him with food, we subject him to cold, heat, deafening music, death threats … All this, in order to obtain forced confessions, which will form the basis of the evidence justifying his detention.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi will meet his first lawyer several years after the end of this torture program. In the film, the one who is played by Tahar Rahim initially feels a certain mistrust towards Nancy Hollander, the one who will end up freeing him. In reality, the Mauritanian says he saw this meeting as the first demonstration of justice towards him: “Before her, I had no access to anything. I couldn’t imagine rejecting her, it could only get better with her ”. “I saw that she really wanted to help me,” he recalls.
The presumption of innocence: the relentless fight of its lawyer
For Nancy Hollander, accustomed to the lies of her clients, the process of trust was longer. “Mohamedou was telling me the truth from the start, but it took a while for me to believe him. But that made no difference, I would have defended him no matter what, ”says the lawyer today. Until 2010, she fought body and soul to allow her client to have a trial, and to assert the illegality of his imprisonment. All this, while appearing to a people still weakened by the September 11 attacks as a traitor to the nation: “We threatened all the lawyers who represented Guantanamo detainees. In 2010, I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times titled ‘I’m a Terrorist Lawyer and Proud to Be One’ ”.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi will not leave Guantanamo until six years after the victory of his trial, the Obama administration having appealed against this decision. Although eager to close the camp, Barack Obama will authorize the Ministry of Justice to continue the detention of the Mauritanian until 2016.
See also on The HuffPost: Tahar Rahim Wrongly Locked In Guantanamo In ‘Named Guilty’ Trailer
Source: Le Huffington Post by www.huffingtonpost.fr.
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