German Resident Goes to Gitmo

By Erin Johnson

By Erin Johnson

Visiting Pakistan when he was just 19 years old, Murat Kurnaz was akin to a UC Irvine student studying abroad, as he came to the country to learn about the Islamic faith directly rather than staying in Germany, where he resided. However, unlike a UCI student, Kurnaz spent five years of his life as a detainee for alleged terrorist connections despite the FBI, U.S. intelligence and German intelligence having information to the contrary.
Kurnaz was held in Kandahar, Afghanistan before being transported to America’s Guantanamo naval base, where he spent the next four years. Where was the German government while the United States was shipping one of its own all over the world? Although the answer to this question is a simple “sitting on its hands,” the reasons why Germany took so little action over the next five years is a bit more complicated. Kurnaz was born in Bremen, Germany in 1982. Despite living there his entire life, he never became a German citizen due to his parents immigrating to the country from Turkey. However, Kurnaz was a legal resident of Germany at the time of his capture.
Kurnaz’s troubles began in 2001, shortly after Sept. 11. Following his trip to Pakistan, Kurnaz was separated from the other travelers outside an airport. Due to the United States offering Pakistani authorities a bounty for capturing suspicious foreigners, the odds were stacked against Kurnaz. After all, for Pakistani authorities, it didn’t really matter whether Kurnaz was guilty of having terrorist connections.
Of all the governments involved in Kurnaz’s case