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Detainees' identities emerge from Cuba

The official policy is not to give their names.

For almost two years, the US government has refused to release the identities of the approximately 660 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying only that they come from at least 41 countries and that they range in age from 13 to 60.

But legal challenges around the world by lawyers working with the detainees' families have broken the silence on more than 100 detainees. Their presence in the camp has been confirmed by letters to relatives, delivered by the Red Cross, and by foreign embassies and accounts of detainees who have been released.

Some are high-profile cases: a former Taliban spokesman, Abdul Salam Zaeef; a Sudanese free-lance cameraman for the Al-Jazeera television network; two teenage children of Ahmed Khadr, an alleged Al Qaeda leader from Canada. But the vast majority are men whose names would never have appeared in public were it not for lawyers who have taken up their cause.

In September, American lawyers representing 12 Kuwaiti detainees asked the US Supreme Court to hear the case of clients whom they had never met -- and whom the US government has never publicly acknowledged detaining.

"All I can say is, it's Orwellian," Thomas Wilner, a Washington-based lawyer working with the Kuwaitis, said of representing clients with whom he is barred from seeing.

Wilner, who said the Supreme Court could decide as soon as tomorrow whether to hear the case, also helped to set up a website to display photographs and biographies.

"I will be back soon, God willing," Abdullah Kamal Abdullah Kamal Al Kandari, a medical technician, wrote in a letter quoted on KuwaitiDetainees.org, the website. "It is a matter of time until they find me innocent and learn that I did not fight, but I came to help the poor and needy and that I was trapped in Afghanistan against my will.

"Then I went to Pakistan, where I was arrested and handed over to them. Please be advised that I do not know where I am, but the authorities say the state I am in is Cuba."

In Britain, Louise Christian, a lawyer, filed suit against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Home Secretary David Blunkett. The action was aimed at forcing the government to intervene to protect the rights of Feroz Abbasi, a British computer student who ran away to Afghanistan at 19.

Although the suit did not compel the British government to act on Abbasi's behalf, it prompted judges to criticize the camp and raised sympathy for nine British detainees, whose names have surfaced.

Christian's advocacy also provided a glimpse of Abbasi's life: a summary of a psychiatric exam, long sought by Abbasi's mother after reports that the 23-year-old had attempted suicide.

"He was cooperative in the interview and even quite engaging," a doctor wrote in the summary that Christian provided to the Globe. "During his incarceration, Abbasi had exhibited withdrawn behavior suggestive of recurrent depression; however, he attributed this to mistrust of guards and interrogators whom he considered to be ignorant of the truth known to followers of Islam."

In Qatar, a former justice minister, Najeeb bin Mohamad Ahmed Al Nauimi, said he represents 80 detainees for no charge at the request of relatives, including his cousin, a university student from Bahrain who turned up at Guantanamo Bay after telling his family he was traveling to Pakistan to do charity work.

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