Monday, 23 February 2009
I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media on the moment of my arrival back to Britain. Please forgive me if I make a simple statement through my lawyer. I hope to be able to do better in days to come, when I am on the road to recovery.
I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, “torture” was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government.
While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers. My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten.
I am grateful that in the end I was not simply left to my fate. I am grateful to my lawyers and other staff at Reprieve, and to Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, who fought for my freedom. I am grateful to the members of the British Foreign Office who worked for my release. And I want to thank people around Britain who wrote to me in Guantánamo Bay to keep my spirits up, as well as to the members of the media who tried to make sure that the world knew what was going on. I know I would not be home in Britain today if it were not for everyone’s support. Indeed, I might not be alive at all.
I wish I could say that it is all over, but it is not. There are still 241 Muslim prisoners in Guantánamo. Many have long since been cleared even by the US military, yet cannot go anywhere as they face persecution. For example, Ahmed bel Bacha lived here in Britain, and desperately needs a home. Then there are thousands of other prisoners held by the US elsewhere around the world, with no charges, and without access to their families.
And I have to say, more in sadness than in anger, that many have been complicit in my own horrors over the past seven years. For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence. I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realised, had allied themselves with my abusers.
I am not asking for vengeance; only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured.
Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed released back to Britain
After a long battle with the US authorities, Reprieve is pleased to announce that Binyam Mohamed has been released from Guantánamo Bay and will today arrive in Britain.
He will be met by a doctor and his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith and Gareth Pierce, together with family and friends who will take him to a quiet place to recover from his ordeal.
Binyam’s sister Zuhra, who travelled to London to meet him, said: “I am so glad and so happy, more than words can express. I am so thankful for everything that was done for Binyam to make this day come true.”
Mr. Mohamed is a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture. He was initially held illegally in Pakistan for four months, which is where a British intelligence agent interrogated him under circumstances later found to be illegal by the British courts. He was rendered to Morocco by the CIA on July 21, 2002, where he was tortured for 18 months, with the British government supplying information and questions used by the Moroccan torturers. On January 21, 2004, he was rendered a second time, to the secret “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan, where his torture continued. Since September 2004, he has been held in Guantánamo Bay. He has never been tried for any crime.
“We hope and expect that the government will allow Binyam’s immediate release,” said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith. “He is a victim who has suffered more than any human being should ever suffer. He just wants to go somewhere very quiet and try to recover. Every moment that he is held compounds the abuse he has endured.”
For the past several weeks, Mr. Mohamed has been on hunger strike against the continuing abuse he was subjected to in Guantánamo Bay.
Mr. Mohamed specifically asked all media covering his release to thank all those in Britain who have worked for his freedom, including many members of the British government.
Monday, 16 February 2009
The beautifully photographed album art gives a clue as to the atmosphere of Tex La Homa’s latest release Little Flashes Of Sunlight On A Cold Dark Sea. The title, however, says it all.
Tex La Homa is the side project of UK singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Shaw. The name is taken from Canadian author Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel Generation X.
The first Tex La Homa album, Dazzle Me With Transience, arrived in 2002. It was a lo-fi, low frequency atmosphere that Matt created around haunting melodies, and understated electronic sounds. It was meshed together to produce a satisfying collection of largely chill out ballads.
The next album If Just Today Were To Be My Entire Life followed in 2003. It continued in the same dream pop territory to good effect. Now we have Little Flashes Of Sunlight On A Cold Dark Sea (Acuarela, 2008). For this album Matt abandons his electronic experimentation and instead has totally stripped everything down to produce an intensely personal set of lo-fi songs.
Matt plays every instrument heard on every piece of his music. This album is no exception with the majority of songs featuring Matt on acoustic guitar or piano. It is, in places, shockingly sparse, deep, bleak, and even dark. However, just like the album's title promises, the odd flash of sunlight does indeed break through.
The intimacy of the album is exposed from the opening track “The Unanswered Question”. Matt, who records alone in his room in Poole, Dorset, adopts a more simplistic approach than that displayed on his previous albums. The result is a mixture of melodic and melancholic material reduced down to the mere essence of the song itself.
Written around personal experiences, memories, reflections, and concerns the songs have everything stripped away to reveal only its core. It seems that Matt is inspired by the gray bleakness of the sea by which he has been surrounded for most of his life. It’s distant horizon, it’s gray and shifting mood, and its hidden power.
“The Unanswered Question” has Matt delving into the deepest corners of your psyche from the off. It is a song that in another life could have been expanded, given more depth and colour. However, he reveals the intimacy of the song with a striking simplicity.
“Dream Sliding” continues this cloying vibe in a song set within a totally bleak atmosphere that is only lifted by some warming and welcome piano. The up tempo “The Greatest Key” lifts the spirits off the floor and hangs around a while after it finishes. “The Ginnel” takes us back to the gray again in a journey into Matt’s memory.
The CD should come accompanied with a health warning against playing it in a sad mood or in troubled times. There is no doubt that it will take you to some dark recesses of your mind. Because of the barren production there is little else to focus on and every sad reflective remorseful regret is thereby rather cleverly magnified ten fold.
The pleasant “Falling” lifts the spirits slightly creating a feeling that “Buziaczki” successfully builds on. The dreamy “An Uncertain Place” runs like a letter written to a departing friend, and that level of almost intrusive personal reflection permeates from “Dawns Of Hope, Sunsets Of Sorrows”.
“Sandbach”, named after the place in Cheshire where Matt spent his school days, breezes in with a dreamy melancholy of the memories of growing up. The gentle acoustics of “One Day At A Time” links to its predecessor nicely, bringing it to the now. “Ania” ends the album with a more uplifting song containing some warming lyrics. ‘You shine like the rising sun’ says Matt of the girl separated from him by distance.
There are moments created within these songs that are disturbingly depressing, and others that will shine and warm. Yet all are delivered with an honesty that is the very essence of this album.You can listen to samples of Tex La Homa's music by visiting his MySpace page.
Published February 05, 2009
Jeff is a writer who lives in France. He writes CD/DVD box sets, reviews and has had a book published about David Byron of Uriah Heep. He is 'busy' exploring both the music and football of Europe with his wife Debbie and dog Dylan. It's Dylan that does the writing of course. He has two music series - Eurorock & Classic Eurorock to check out. There is also a new European football feature - Euroscore - in the Sports section.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Matt Shaw is a machine. He makes albums over breakfast. The last time he played a gig with us, as Tex la Homa at The Bournemouth Railway Club a few months ago, he gave me a ‘handful’ of his latest recordings. Little Flashes Of Sunlight On A Cold Dark Sea was, at time of handover, his latest long-player. There may have been others since.
Machine-like he may be in regards to his rate of productivity, but on this offering he’s completely in touch with his emotions. More than any other Tex la Homa album I’ve heard Little Flashes… is musically stripped bare, intentionally exposing the often dark and deeply personal lyrics. Any adornment to the acoustic guitar and piano is minimal and perfectly used, simply embroidering the songs borders. Lyrically this is almost exclusively involving the relationship between man and woman, and as such it’s not always easy listening. 'Sandbach' being an exception, as Matt reminisces about his schooldays and childhood.
The album is full of uncertainty and positivity in equal measure. On 'The Unanswered Question' he sings ‘There is a fear in my heart I’m being used / Somewhere between a truth and lie I wait still / You ignore and then adore my being here / A secret lover in the dark with nowhere to go’, which typifies the uncertainty in much of Matt’s outpouring. That opener falls bleakly into ‘Dream Sliding’, which, though totally down-tempo is quite beautiful, with lyrics about his love sung as if in a sombre, dream-like state.
The mood lifts with ‘The Greatest Key’, which fairly bounces along compared to what’s gone before. Matt’s tone has lifted too, ‘When I look into your eyes / The world is opening the door / I never had a key to’. This sounds like wide-open spaces, two lovers running, smiling, the sun is shining. Then the clouds return for ‘The Ginnel’. That fore-mentioned adornment is used perfectly here, creating an eerie, uncomfortable sound which only enhances the darkness.
As soon as Matt sings the first word in ‘Falling’ I’m instantly reminded of Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, ‘Today, it was as if someone stole the sunlight from your smile / As if someone stole the sparkle from your eyes / I hope you’re alright tonight.’ Not for the only time here Matt’s resemblance to Jonathan Donahue is clearly evident, though unlike much of that album there is little in the way of musical dramatics here. In fact, if Mercury Rev were a one-man band, this is how I would expect them to sound.
The beauty and uncertainty continue and at times it’s not easy listening, as if I’ve been asked to read someone’s personal diary: ‘Only once in a blue moon can I be the man you need / The rest of the time I drown my sorrows with beer and wine / Don’t ask me why, it’s not of my design’ (Dawns Of Hope, Sunsets of Sorrow). But, most of this is exposed over a simple acoustic guitar, and once you’ve become accustomed to what you’re being given, its open honesty is beautifully uplifting.
The album ends with picked guitar and sparse piano as on ‘Ania’ Matt sings of hope. Once more this sounds like it’s been lifted from his diary, it’s wonderfully simple and comes to an end with absolutely no fuss, as if it’s the last page. The month spent devouring this album has felt like I’ve been eavesdropping into Matt’s personal book of poetry. Becoming more and more comfortable with its content, its simply beauty has (like most of the best sad/reflective albums) become quite inspirational.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed is a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture. He was initially held illegally in Pakistan for four months, where a British intelligence agent interrogated him under circumstances later found to be likely illegal by the British court. He was rendered to Morocco by the CIA on July 21, 2002, where he was tortured for 18 months, with the British government apparently supplying information and questions used by the Moroccan torturers. On January 21, 2004, he was rendered a second time, to the secret “Dark Prison,” an underground prison in Afghanistan, where his torture continued. Since September 2004, he has been held in Guantánamo Bay. He has never been tried for any crime.
Yesterday the High Court in London held in a judgment that details of Binyam’s ill-treatment at the hands of the US and Pakistani authorities should not be published because the US authorities had threatened to withhold intelligence sharing with the UK, should the information be made public.
The Judges stated that they had been informed that the threat remained in place even after the change of administration in the US. They were deeply critical of this stance, which prevented them from ordering disclosure of information they ‘consider so important to the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability’. They noted that no national security interests were at issue in the documents themselves. However, the Judges stated the US threat to downgrade its intelligence relationship with the UK would harm UK national security.
In an astonishing sequence of events following the judgment, the Foreign Secretary conceded that the Obama administration had not actually been approached and stated that in fact no threat regarding intelligence sharing had ever been made by the US. These admissions by the Foreign Secretary would seem to undermine the whole basis of the Court’s reluctant decision to refuse to publish details of Binyam’s torture.
Leigh Day & Co Solicitors and Reprieve are accordingly seeking to re-open the case (Mohamed v. Secretary of State) on the basis that the judgment relied on ‘misleading evidence’ provided by the UK Government. For more information visit our website at www.reprieve.org.uk.
Thank you so much for your support, which enables us to do this vital work. Please help us to continue providing legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves by making a donation at: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/donate.htm
Sunday, 1 February 2009
ANDREW PAINE – FIVE PERSPECTIVES CD-R
DRMWPN – BRIGHT BLUE GALILEE CD-R
SINDRE BJERGA – ANGEL HEART, SPARKLING WITH FIRE CD-R
Specialising in short-run, hand painted CDRs, Apollolaan releases are blessed with quality and variety, the emphasis on the individual and experimental. Judging by these three albums, it is a venture well worth supporting, especially as the founder is a regular visitor to the Terrascope forums.
Home to just one long track, “Five Perspectives (or the same event)”, is a slowly building piece that opens with the repeated refrain “I Was Born To Silence”, hypnotising you the chant gradually fading as other instrumentation takes over. With whispers of synths and whistles, the sounds creep into being, until a wave of distorted drone flows into the music, fragile and beautiful, the sound ever rising, until, it too, is lost, the vocals re-asserting themselves, painting some wonderful, evocative images behind your retina. From here on in a meditative minimalism is to be found, rustles of sound curling around the words, the return of the drone more gossamer than before, cloaking the piece in mist before everything is silence.
Featuring a host of ethnic instruments, plus electronics, guitars, drums, bass, etc, “Bright Blue Galilee” is another extended piece that is given plenty of room to grow and change, the result crackling with vitality, reminding me work by United Bible Studies. With rattled percussion and chanted vocals, the piece has a spiritual dimension at its start, the very psychedelic sound encouraging you to turn off the lights and listen completely. Having drawn you in however, the music is slowly absorbed into a different piece and you find yourself listening to drifting electronics and scattered drums, not completely sure when the music changed, but enjoying the effect it is having. Finally the music flutter and stops and you realise half an hour has passed in the blink of an eye or a thousand years, such is the power of this compelling sound.
Recorded in a Methodist church in 2008, the live piece from Norwegian Sindre Bjerga, sounds as if the church in question has been submerged at the bottom of the sea, haunted and almost forgotten. Using the silence between sounds as much as the sound itself, the piece is abstract and calming, the electronics darting around the room, creating a completely different environment. As the music progresses however, the ghostly congregation makes its presence felt, the music becoming slightly uncomfortable, a presence just out of sight, until a roar of white noise fills the room with sound, obliterating what has gone before, the piece fading finally to rest on the ocean floor.
So, three wonderful discs that require several spins to unlock their beauty, but are well worth the effort to do so. (Simon Lewis)
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