MIAMI (Reuters) - A television cameraman held prisoner for years at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has issued an impassioned plea for the release of a fellow journalist kidnapped in Gaza.
In an open letter to the kidnappers of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, Guantanamo detainee Sami al-Hajj of the al-Jazeera satellite TV network said Muslims should never be responsible for illegal detentions like the one he has endured at the hands of the United States.
“What the Americans are doing to me is very, very wrong,” al-Hajj, a native of Sudan, said in the letter, which was made public on Monday by his lawyer.
“Yet this can never mean that a Muslim should similarly hold a British journalist, and put him and his family through similar suffering,” he said.
“Please, then, as brothers in one faith, consider this gift that I request of you: That you release Alan Johnston as soon as possible, without conditions. While the United States has kidnapped me and held me for years on end, this is not a lesson that Muslims should copy.”
Al-Hajj, 38, has been held at Guantanamo for nearly five years on suspicion of having links to Islamic militant groups. He has been accused of making videos of Osama bin Laden.
He was picked up in Pakistan in 2001 and said in his letter that he would be on the 140th day of a hunger strike as of this past Sunday.
Johnston, who disappeared on March 12 while driving his car in the Gaza Strip, has been held captive longer than any of the previous foreign journalists who have been seized by gunmen in Gaza.
A little-known Islamist group claimed responsibility for the abduction in an audio recording earlier this month.