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>> To some, these colorful abstract dots may represent beauty. But to Abd al-Aziz Ali, who has pleaded guilty in conspiring on 9/11, this painting represents his vertigo, the colors and patterns he sees while being tortured at Guantanamo Bay, where he is currently awaiting trial for capital punishment. I'm Joanna Zucker for Reuters, here at the John J College of Criminal Justice which recently unveiled a free art exhibit featuring drawings, paintings, and sculptures by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The exhibition is one of the only ways detainees are able to communicate with the outside world, but it's stirring controversy.>> So some of the criticism seems to have been that this art glorifies terrorism, which was not my intent at all. We're a college of criminal justice, we study terrorism and the ways to prevent it.
So, for me, this art is invaluable information about the minds of these men.>> When it first opened in October, the exhibit's website said the art from detainees, who had already been released from Guantanamo, was available for purchase. But that sparked outrage among some Americans who were unhappy that money from the sales would go to men whom they considered terrorists.
That prompted the Department of Defense to claim the art as US property. And they were going to burn it, but decided against that after Curator and Professor Erin Thompson found enough support for a petition to preserve the work. And on Tuesday, the US military said it may consider archiving the art instead.
The exhibit, called Ode to the Sea, Art from Guantanamo Bay, is a collection that represents a sharp contrast to prisoners' lives at Guantanamo.>> When I started seeing this art, I noticed that the ocean appeared again and again. I finally got into contact with a former detainee, who explained that the prison is only yards away from the sea.
But they can't see it, though, because there are tarps on the fences. So only once, for four days in 2014, did the tarps comes down when a hurricane was approaching. After that, all the detainee artists began to paint the sea, because they wanted to recapture this feeling of freedom and peacefulness that had come from looking at the ocean.
>> The prisoners use whatever materials they have available, from their prayer caps to paints, to pieces of razor blades. Of the eight artists in the exhibition, four have been released after being found innocent. Another four remain in custody. The exhibit runs till January 26th, 2018.