Sami al-Hajj

Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Hajj, who was captured by Pakistani authorities while attempting to return from Pakistan to Afghanistan

An Al Jazeera journalist detained at Guantánamo Bay for six years was held partly in order to provide information about the network's newsgathering operations, according to new files published by WikiLeaks today.

Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Hajj, who joined Al Jazeera in March or April 2000 according to his personal file, was captured by Pakistani authorities on 15 December 2001 while attempting to return from Pakistan to Afghanistan. He was then turned over to US forces on 6 January 2002.

Listed on al-Hajj's file under "Reasons for transfer to JTF-GITMO (Joint Task Force - Guantánamo Bay)" is:

"To provide information on ... the al-Jazeera News Network’s training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Usama Bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL."

His file from the camp was published today along with 778 others by whistleblowers' site WikiLeaks, in conjunction with national news organisations. The files are understood to be part of the massive trove of documents allegedly leaked by intelligence officer Bradley Manning.

According to his file, Al-Hajj joined Al Jazeera in 2000 and trained with the network for three months in order to take up a position as a reporter in Chechnya. The move was put on hold however so that he could travel to Sudan to attend his father's funeral. Unable to obtain an entrance visa for Chechnya from Sudan, Al-Hajj later returned to Doha where he worked in the network's newsroom while continuing to attempt to obtain the visa. He also spent two months of 2001 reporting for Al Jazeera from Kosovo.

Al-Hajj reportedly admitted "shipping supplies and carrying funds to Chechnya", but claimed that his involvement in extremism was limited to his role as a journalist.

"Detainee still has not been forthcoming regarding his activities in support of terrorist organizations as reported by other sources. Detainee has revealed he is knowledgeable about certain illegal activities such as weapons and drug smuggling. However, he is careful not to implicate himself as a member of an extremist organization, or to have had any dealings with extremists beyond performing interviews as a journalist."

Al-Hajj, who was assessed as a "high risk" detainee at Guantánamo Bay, was released in 2008. In September that year he received the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) International Press Freedom Award.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).