The Defining Dignity Initiative, an Essay by Matt DeHart

Published exclusively in The Gad About Town.

This is the fourth article in a series of prison essays by Matt DeHart. The first: “You don’t act like an American,” the second: “Hospitality in Mexico,” and Matt’s third: “Shattered.” It is a personal honor for me to publish his words from prison.

Matt DeHart’s voice is one worth listening to. In “Defining Dignity,” he challenges us all to put meaning—and action—behind that commandment that is so often expressed and so little heeded: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” which of course is found in the Book of Matthew.

The essay published below is one of the few public statements he has made. It was sent to me by his mother, Leann DeHart, with the request that it is published as written.
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My Posts about Raif Badawi & Saudi Arabia

Raif Badawi is always in imminent danger of his punishment being resumed. He still awaits 950 lashes with a whip. Saudi Arabia’s thought-police know that any news about a prisoner can be one more form of punishment for his family. Raif Badawi is always in imminent danger. The mental torture never ceases.

When his story grows more prominent, as it has since the arrest of his sister, Samar Badawi, on July 30, 2018, that torture only becomes sharper. It becomes exquisitely more difficult to find hope.

For Raif—and for his lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair, who is also in prison in Saudi Arabia in a gross violation of his own human rights—and for their two brilliant and courageous wives, Ensaf Haidar and Samar Badawi, today is another challenging day. Each one is. Each day, news or none, is spent weighing the choice between daring to dream of freedom or to not expend energy in the risky business of dreaming.

Saudi Arabia arrested and imprisoned Samar Badawi on July 30, possible charges and location unknown as of this writing.

This post lists the articles I wrote over the last three-plus years about Raif Badawi, a young writer whom Saudi Arabia has punished for his essays, and whose story is finally an international matter this week in a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Canada. I will file a more current post tomorrow.

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‘Shattered,’ an essay by Matt DeHart

Published exclusively in The Gad About Town.

This is the third article in a series of prison essays by Matt DeHart. The first essay is here: “You don’t act like an American,” and the second is here: “Hospitality in Mexico.”
 
“Shattered” was written in May 2018.

* * * *
Last November, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) informed Matt DeHart, a former U.S. Air National Guard drone team member and alleged WikiLeaks courier, that it had reversed its decision that the fourteen months he spent detained in a Canadian prison would be credited toward his sentence as time served. No hearing was held. His release date of September 2018 is no longer in place.

The decision was announced in a letter that neither acknowledges DeHart’s right to due process nor concedes that he has been denied due process. “An inmate held pending a civil deportation determination is not being held in ‘official’ detention pending criminal charges,” the BOP letter reads. This reverses the stance the government took when it sentenced DeHart. It is worth noting that the BOP employed the quotation marks around the word “official” in its letter to Matt DeHart.

DeHart continues to appeal the BOP’s unilateral decision to effectively extend his prison sentence by fourteen months even though the BOP’s paperwork requirements are Kafka-esque: In December 2017, DeHart was required to include with his appeal of the extension of his sentence a sheet that detailed the computation of his time served; it was to be stapled to the document. This is a page that the BOP already possesses as it is that department’s own computation. DeHart did not staple it; he sent it in a separate envelope with explanatory statements (i.e.: This is exhibit 14 that was not included in the earlier letter which states exhibit 14 will be forthcoming). The BOP did not accept the documents (which is an insidious method of rejecting an appeal) and returned them to DeHart.
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Shawkan’s Latest Delay

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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June 13: The next hearing in the ongoing trial of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” will be held on Tuesday, July 4, it was learned today.

An additional three weeks. For a human rights trial noteworthy for its glacial pace, this is the latest example of the trial’s simple inhumanity. One more delay is a delay; years of delays are a lifetime.

Today is Shawkan’s 1400th day in prison.
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Another Ten Days

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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For the second time this month, the usual adjournment in the ongoing trial of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” will be ten days rather then one month, which had been the usual postponement length. Shawkan’s next court appearance will be Tuesday, May 30.

Perhaps it means nothing at all.

The photo of Shawkan at top was taken in court today. It is reported that Shawkan’s medical documents were reviewed and that he is “in good condition.” “Good condition” can be a sliding scale: it has long been known that Shawkan has Hepatitis C and his lawyers have reported in the past that essential medications for that illness have been sporadically administered by the prison authorities.

 
Ten more days. For a human rights trial noteworthy for its glacial pace, perhaps the fact of a briefer delay until the morning that Shawkan can have his case heard means something, but this trial rebuffs all attempts to interpret its tiny shifts and huge delays.

Today is Shawkan’s 1375th day in prison.
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One Hundred Billion Versions of Silence

Will these names be spoken by American officials this weekend in Saudi Arabia: Raif Badawi, Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher, Ashraf Fayadh?

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The president of the United States will have one hundred billion reasons after this weekend to ignore the facts about the nation he chose as his first foreign destination: Saudi Arabia. He and his already embattled administration chose Saudi Arabia as the location of his first summit abroad—rather than Canada or Mexico, which U.S. presidents traditionally visit first—for a photo op: the president with King Salman and a game-show-style giant check between them.

The United States and Saudi Arabia will announce this weekend that Saudi Arabia will purchase at least $100 billion worth of military equipment, software, and ongoing expertise from American military contractors. Some military business experts estimate that after a decade the deals will be worth three hundred billion dollars.

“The customer is always right,” goes the old retail cliché, and there are two parts to a customer’s continual rightness: the customer has a right to complain about the product purchased or the service in the store no matter what, and the service has a duty to remain silent about the customer’s behavior, even when it is offensive.
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Joel Guerrero Freed; What Comes Next?

Numbers only provide a snapshot, a sense of the size of the story. In February, soon after the new U.S. President announced a desire to deport three million illegal immigrants in his first year in office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started to conduct what it called “targeted enforcement operations” across the nation.

Sources report that in a five-day operation in February, some 680 individuals were detained under ICE’s new mandate. In March, another 729 were arrested in actions across the country. The total numbers are not yet known. The number deported has not been publicized.
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