NEW YORK | ACCRA – Compassion was not in the hearts of Ghana’s religious leaders for two detainees flown to freedom this month (January) after 14 years in Guantanamo prison behind bars.
The Rev. Joseph Osei Bonsu, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, scolded President John Dramani Mahama, saying the two Yemeni ex-detainees did not deserve any compassion from Ghanaians.
“The argument for compassion here does not hold,” he said. “Certainly the Bible talks about compassion. We need to be compassionate to people and so on but compassion goes with common sense as well.”
Remarks by the cleric were met with dismay by the President and some political allies. Kofi Adams, national organizer of the National Democratic Congress, urged the Rev. Osei Bonsu to apologize for his comments.
"We should calm the hysteria and phobia,” President Mahama said. ”Ghana will continue to receive God’s favor and be a safe place… They [the men] just want to pick up the pieces of their lives and live normally. We don't have anything to fear," adding that Khalid al-Dhuby and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef are staying in a security compound.
He dismissed as "absolutely untrue" allegations that Ghana had received $300 million from the U.S. to take the detainees.
Earlier, the influential Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference called the Yemenis "time bombs" who should be "sent back to wherever they came from".
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) claimed that official U.S. documents showed the men had "violent and dangerous profiles". "Why is government straining to paint a picture of the two detainees as harmless, misunderstood and wrongly detained persons?" they asked. The two men “will vanish” if the NPP comes to power, party leader Nana Obiri Boahen warned.
The men were captured in Afghanistan, following the U.S.-led invasion to overthrow the Taliban government in 2011.
Al-Dhuby and Atef have denied belonging to militant groups.
"We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us," Atef told Ghana's public radio station Uniiq FM. "We have suffered but we are not looking for revenge," he said.
Atef said they were huge fans of Ghana soccer champ Asamoah Gyan, and many of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay supported the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"When Ghana beat America, we were very happy. We made some celebrations. We also told the guards that we've won," Atef said.
Dozens of countries have received former Guantanamo Bay detainees, including other African states such as Uganda and Cape Verde.
A total of 780 men have been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, the vast majority without charge or criminal trial.
The U.S. navy base now has 105 detainees, nearly 50 of whom have been cleared for release. [International Press Syndicate | 26 January 2016]
Photo: Rev. Joseph Osei Bonsu | Credit: m.gbcghana.com