Lloyd Levin and Michael Bonner, principal advisors behind the Oscar-nominated Paul Greengrass-directed films United 93 and Green Zone, have optioned film rights of Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir.
Slahi, a 44-year-old Muslim man who previously admitted that he pledged allegiance to, and fought for, Al Qaeda, has been incarcerated at GITMO since 2002.
Slahi was accused of sending money to support Al Qaeda, and also led prayer services in a Mosque that Ahmed Ressam, also known as The Millennium Bomber, visited frequently.
Ressam was caught at the Canadian border with a car full of explodes that he planned to detonate at LAX.
The screenplay for Guantanamo Diary will be adapted by Bonner, who worked as a producer for 60 Minutes and covered 9/11 extensively. Bonner feels that Slahi’s story needs exploration, seeing as he was convicted without trial.
“My father was a defense attorney and I vividly remember him telling me that the central tenet of the American legal system is that you cannot imprison people without a trial, and if you can’t convict them, you have to let them go,” Bonner told Deadline.
“Worse than letting a guilty person go free is keeping an innocent person behind bars. Guantanamo is an extra-legal prison that operates outside that rule of law, and I feel strongly as a journalist and citizen that this demands exploration,” he continued. “The movie isn’t a referendum on Guantanamo as much as a look at a man who wrote an incredibly moving, humorous, humane book, a stunning thing to come out of Guantanamo. At 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt always told us that to tell the big story, you have to tell the small story, and tell it well.”
Slahi wrote in his 466-page memoir that “enhanced interrogation” techniques have been practiced on him. Those techniques included having his ribs broken, being forced to stay awake for days, and being blindfolded and sent out to sea to be told he would be executed, per Deadline.
He also claims he was subjected to sexual humiliation that involved two female soldiers.
Kevin said the film’s intent is to “put a very human face on a Muslim man who was considered public enemy number one and turned out likely not to be that.”
“There is an opportunity post-9/11 for compassion, not for terrorists or terrorism, but for some kind of understanding of the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in this world. It is something that gets completely lost,” he added.
Since he will not be allowed direct access to Slahi, Bonner will have to rely on the hand-written memoir that was originally written in the form of letters to his attorneys.
According to Deadline, the book is the only published chronicle of a suspected terrorist being held at Guantanamo, and it was published only after a long legal battle.
It has since been translated into 24 languages and is said to detail not only his incarceration, but also his appreciation for life’s blessings.
A judge ordered Slahi to be released in 2010, but that ruling was overturned following an appeal by the Justice Department.
Bronner and Levin plan to put a package together with the script and director before seeking financiers for the film.