The Mauritanian on life in Guantanamo: ‘When you hit rock bottom you have nothing to lose’

Mohamedou Ould Slahi spent 14 years in Guantanamo Bay simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the adaptation of his diary is released on Amazon Prime, he speaks to Stephen Applebaum about what the film gets right, what it gets wrong, and what life was really like in the world’s most notorious prison

Wednesday 31 March 2021 21:30
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<p>Prime’s adaptation of the all-telling diary, starring Tahar Rahim as Slahi, is out now</p>

Prime’s adaptation of the all-telling diary, starring Tahar Rahim as Slahi, is out now

I

really love the saying, ‘Democracy dies in darkness’,” says Mohamedou Ould Slahi, as the Zoom connection from his home in Mauritania cuts in and out.

We’re talking about the 50-year-old’s hope that a review of the notorious US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, announced in February by US president Joe Biden’s administration, will generate a debate leading to its closure, and to a resolution for the 40 remaining prisoners, most of whom have been stuck in legal limbo for nearly two decades. Six have previously been cleared for release by the government, but still languish in jail.

“I’m sure if there is a debate, Guantanamo Bay must be closed,” he says. “And it should be closed, because it does not belong in a democracy.”

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