Two More Yemeni “Forever Prisoners” Seek Release from Guantánamo Via Periodic Review Boards

4.5.16

Yemeni prisoner Bashir al-Marwalah, in a photo included in the classified military files from Guantanamo that were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Last week, two more Periodic Review Boards took place for men held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The PRBs, which began in November 2013, are reviewing the cases of all the men still held who are not facing trials or were not already approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in January 2009.

The PRBs that took place last week were for the 32nd and 33rd prisoners to have their cases considered. Of the previous 31, 20 have so far been approved for release, eight have had their ongoing imprisonment recommended, and three are awaiting results. Of the decisions taken, the prisoners’ success rate is 71%, a figure that is a stern rebuke to the task force, which either described them as “too dangerous to release,” while conceding that there was insufficient evidence to put them on trial, meaning that there are serious problems with the so-called “evidence,” or recommended them for prosecution in a system — the military commissions — that is so discredited that, after the task force made its recommendations, appeals court judges began overturning some of the few convictions achieved in the commissions, on the basis that the war crimes for which the prisoners had been convicted were not legitimate war crimes at all but had been invented by Congress.

Most of the PRBs to date have been for the “forever prisoners,” those mistakenly described as “too dangerous to release,” and last week’s PRBs were for two more from this group.

Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, first ordered to be freed by a judge in 2010

The first man, Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman (ISN 027), is 36 years old, and, according to the government’s unclassified summary for his PRB, “left Yemen to participate in jihad in Afghanistan.” This much may be true, although Uthman has always maintained that he was a missionary. It may well also be true, as alleged, that he fought in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains, although the authorities’ claim that this was “probably against Coalition Forces” is rather far-fetched, as no western forces were on the ground, only Afghan proxies. What is certainly true is that, in December 2001, he ended up crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan, “where he was detained,” and was subsequently flown to Guantánamo when the prison opened in January 2002.

What is less clear is whether, as alleged, he was “selected to be a bodyguard for Usama bin Ladin,” as he was just 23 years old at the time, and had only been in Afghanistan since March 2001. In Guantánamo, he and others caught with him have long been described as the “Dirty Thirty,” and have all been accused of being bodyguards for bin Laden, but the evidence has never existed to back up this claim. One of the men who made the claim is Yasim Basardah (ISN 252), a Yemeni widely acknowledged — including by the US authorities — as Guantánamo’s most prolific liar, who made false claims about at least 120 of his fellow prisoners. In Uthman’s classified military file, released by WikiLeaks in 2011, it is noted that Basardah “identified detainee as a UBL bodyguard whom he saw eating with UBL,” and “felt that due to detainee’s close friendship with UBL that he may have been a guard for UBL for a substantial period of time.”

Another dubious witness is Abdu Ali al-Haji Sharqawi (ISN 1457), aka Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj, who was recommended for ongoing imprisonment by his PRB just three weeks ago. Uthman’s file stated that Sharqawi “recognised detainee as an individual who became a UBL bodyguard several months prior to 11 September 2001,” but as a US judge, District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., noted in February 2010, while evaluating Uthman’s habeas corpus petition, Sharqawi’s statements, and those of another prisoner, Sanad al-Kazimi (ISN 1453), were unreliable because they were both tortured in CIA “black sites.”

Back in February 2010, Judge Kennedy granted Uthman’s habeas petition, as I wrote about in an article entitled, Judge Rules Yemeni’s Detention at Guantánamo Based Solely on Torture, but the government appealed, and in March 2011 that ruling was reversed by the D.C. Circuit Court in a politically-motivated ruling that I dissected in a hard-hitting article at the time, entitled, Mocking the Law, Judges Rule that Evidence Is Not Necessary to Hold Insignificant Guantánamo Prisoners for the Rest of Their Lives.

Five years after this ruling, Uthman maintains, as he always has, that he was not involved with Al-Qaeda. As the unclassified summary for his PRB states, “In interviews, [he] has never admitted to being part of al-Qa’ida or being a bin Ladin bodyguard, and has maintained that he was in Afghanistan to teach Islamic law.” The summary also notes that, according to Joint Task Force Guantánamo, he “has been mostly compliant at the Guantánamo detention facility, and “has committed less than 80 infractions since his arrival — a low number relative to other detainees — the majority of which have been non-violent failures to comply with the guard force.”

Nevertheless, the authorities note how his “statements while at Guantánamo suggest that he retains anti-US sentiments and is sympathetic to extremist causes,” although no examples are cited. It is also noted that he “has received one letter from a former detainee suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities, but did not respond” — a statement that I find shocking because of its casual intrusion on his privacy, and the inference that, if he had respond to a letter sent to him by a former prisoner he would have been tarnished by association.

Below, I’m posting the opening statements made by his personal representatives (military personnel assigned to help him with his PRB) and his attorney, David Remes. The personal representatives were clearly impressed by him, describing him as “polite, sincere and pleasant,” and as having “proven that he has a well-developed set of ethics and a sharp sense of right and wrong.” They added that he “has stated to us on many occasions that he harbors no ill will to the United States for his detention and has a mutual respect for all countries,” and note supportively his business plans (for a sesame oil business), his supportive family in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and his willingness “to attend a rehabilitation program” — in Saudi Arabia, presumably — “and live his life in peace.”

David Remes stressed Uthman’s “quick mind, and his easygoing and good-humored temperament,” and his business acumen, and clearly hoped repatriation to Yemen would be possible, although I am not convinced of the wisdom of this approach, as the entire US establishment is unwilling to repatriate any Yemenis, because of the unrest on Yemen, and it seems to me that supporting resettlement in Saudi Arabia (as happened recently with nine Yemenis) is the most practical approach.

Below these statements I look at the case of the second Yemeni reviewed last week, Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah (ISN 837).

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 26 Apr 2016
Uthman Abd Al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, ISN 027
Personal Representative Opening Statement

Yemeni prisoner Uthman Abd al-Rahim Uthman, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Ladies and gentlemen of the Board, good morning. We are the Personal Representatives for Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, ISN 027. In our submission, we have provided you with information that demonstrates Mr. Uthman does not pose a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. His family is ready to provide support after his transfer, and most importantly, he is willing to attend a rehabilitation program and live his life in peace.

As Uthman’s Personal Representatives, we’ve met with him face to face on several occasions over the past months. Throughout our interactions, we have found him to be polite, sincere and pleasant. He has proven that he has a well-developed set of ethics and a sharp sense of right and wrong. He has stated to us on many occasions that he harbors no ill will to the United States for his detention and has a mutual respect for all countries.

Uthman’s Personal Counsel, David Remes, has had regular contact with Uthman’s family members. Uthman’s family including his mother, sister and two brothers living in Saudi Arabia are ready and willing to support him in his homecoming. In addition, you have documents from Uthman detailing his desire to start a sesame oil business which he has explored in detailed, to include diversifying into a roadside food cart business.

Last month he lost his brother-in-law to the war in Yemen. He was a member of the Yemeni Army. Uthman has told us, that he views his time in Guantánamo as a learning experience. In Yemen, and subsequently in Afghanistan, he stated he did not have access to television or newspapers like he does now which caused him to have a distorted view of the world.

Uthman has demonstrated that he is open minded and willing to change when he sees hope of a better future. He is 36 years old and wishes to begin to live his life again as soon as possible and start a family of his own. He wishes to put this all behind him and build a normal, healthy life outside Guantánamo. Accordingly, we do not believe that Uthman is a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.

Periodic Review Board
Statement of David Remes
Private Counsel for Uthman Abd Al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman

April 26, 2016

Good morning. My name is David Remes. I am private counsel for Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman, ISN 27. I have represented Uthman in his habeas corpus case since July 2004. I have met with him countless times. As I will explain, I hope that the Board will approve Uthman for transfer, with a recommendation that he be repatriated to Yemen.

Uthman would return to a stable, tightly-knit family centered on the mother, the family’s beating heart. He would return to a family with the means to support him while he gets his bearings. His brother who assumed the role of bread-winner 30 years ago, after their father died in a bitter civil war, does not earn merely a “decent living,” as the translation of Uthman’s statement puts it. At the oil company where he has worked for 25 years, his brother, in fact, is both highly regarded and highly paid. The family is relatively affluent. Should Uthman be resettled in Saudi Arabia, his relatives there also have the means to sustain him.

There is no question that Uthman will hit the ground running. Before he went to Afghanistan, Uthman was a successful designer and manufacturer of men’s and women’s clothing wear. He knew his market and catered to it with the trendiest fashions. Uthman’s quick mind, and his easygoing and good-humored temperament, destine him for happiness and success in anything he tries to do.

Uthman’s immediate objective is to reunite with his mother and family. Obviously, that means repatriating him. I have absolutely no concern that Uthman would “rejoin the fight,” whether he is repatriated to Yemen or resettled anywhere else. Just as important, he would return not to Aden itself but to Little Aden. Separated from Aden by the wide Al-Tawahi Harbor, Little Aden has been relatively undisturbed by the turmoil in Aden. Even in Aden, the forces of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi appear to have the upper hand.

In repatriating Uthman to Yemen, the United States would not only be reuniting a strong, loving family, it would be returning a young man, still in his prime, who can succeed and actually contribute to the community around him. He should be approved for transfer.

Thank you.

Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah, part of a non-existent Al-Qaeda plot

The second PRB last week was for Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah (ISN 837), also 36, who is one of a group of six men seized in house raids in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002, on the same day that alleged 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh was seized. The six men were then sent to CIA-run torture prisons for six weeks before being sent to Guantánamo. They were initially regarded as recruits for a specific terrorist attack, although the government has long since walked away from this claim, as became apparent when the first of the six, Ayub Murshid Ali Salih (ISN 836), had his PRB in February, and was approved for release in March. Since then, another of the six has had a hearing, although the decision has not yet been announced. Another of the six has his PRB scheduled for May 31.

In an article in October 2010, I described al-Marwalah’s story as follows:

In Guantánamo, al-Marwalah, who had studied nursing in Yemen, admitted traveling to Afghanistan in September 2000 and training at al-Farouq and another camp, but he added that he then returned to Yemen to see his family, and especially his father, who was ill. He said that he then returned to Afghanistan in August 2001 and attended al-Farouq for a second time, but refuted an allegation that he had participated in military operations against the US-led coalition, and said that he had fled to Pakistan after the US-led invasion began. When the tribunal asked him why he had gone to Afghanistan, he said that he wanted to train to fight in Chechnya, and when he was asked, “Are you a member of al-Qaeda?” he said, “I don’t know. I know I am an Arab fighter” (although he also noted that he had not engaged in any actual combat).

In the government’s most recent publicly available allegations, it was noted that, unlike other men who had traveled to Tora Bora, al-Marwalah “and about 400 others” were evacuated to Khost, after “approximately four weeks moving back and forth between two guest houses, one in Kabul, and the other in Bagram,” and that, after traveling through Pakistan, he “stayed in a safe houses” [sic] in Karachi “from July to September 2002.”

These accounts are very similar to what the government has in its unclassified summary, in which it is claimed that al-Marwalah “was a low-level Yemeni militant who traveled to Afghanistan in the fall of 2000 to support the jihadist cause in Chechnya and train to fight with Muslims against the Russians. He received instruction at an al-Qa’ida camp, returned to Sanaa, Yemen in December 2000, and then travelled again to Afghanistan in fall 2001 and received additional militant training. After 9/11, [he] briefly went to the front lines against the Northern Alliance near Bagram, Afghanistan, although he claimed he never saw action [and] subsequently moved through a series of safehouses in Afghanistan and Pakistan, possibly waiting to return to Yemen.”

Refuting the claims that he was part of an Al-Qaeda plot, the summary described him as “one of the Yemenis arrested during the 11 September 2002 raids in Karachi, Pakistan later labelled as the ‘Karachi Six’ based on concerns that they were part of an al-Qa’ida operational cell intended to support a future attack.” Crucially, the summary added, “We judge that this label more accurately reflects the common circumstances of their arrest and that it is more likely the six Yemenis were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al-Qa’ida planners considered potentially available to support future operations.”

The summary added, specifically dealing with al-Marwalah’s case, that, “Although his role in al-Qa’ida operational plotting is unverified, his last will and testament found in the Karachi raids included a martyrdom statement.” This is meant to sound significant, and may have had some significance for the 23-year old al-Marwalah, although I don’t see it as relating to the 36-year old currently at Guantánamo.

The summary also noted that, at Guantánamo, al-Marwalah has been extremely well-behaved. He “has been highly compliant with the guard staff and has committed no significant disciplinary infractions apart from participating in one non-religious hunger strike in 2013,” the summary stated. It was also noted that, in debriefings, he “has never admitted to an affiliation with al-Qa’ida, has never expressed anti-American sentiment, and has denied any role in or knowledge of future terrorist activity against the US.” However, a note of caution was sounded with the assessment that some of his statements “suggest deception and withholding of information, including an unwillingness to expand on his activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, his knowledge of senior al-Qa’ida members, and his understanding of al-Qa’ida operations and martyrdom.”

With what I regard as unnecessary caution, the summary added that, “As a result, while [al-Marwalah] has voiced a desire to return to his family, get married, and get a job upon release, we do not know if this intent is genuine.” It was also noted that he “has maintained close contact with his Sanaa-based family, including two brothers who probably are involved with AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], one of whom is currently in prison in Sanaa.” The “probably” in the previous sentence rather undermines its intended impact, but in any case, although the summary concluded with a warning that, “Should he reconnect with his brothers upon release, they could provide him access to extremist networks in Yemen and the opportunity to reengage,” even if the willingness was there, which I find unlikely, he will not in any case be repatriated to Yemen, and if approved for release will have to be found a third country prepared to offer him a new home.

Below I’m posting the opening statements of his personal representatives and his attorney, Erin E. Thomas, who made a good case for his release. The representatives described him as “a serious, thoughtful man” from “a large family that works in the medical field,” and stressed how he has retained his interest in medicine at Guantánamo, assisting his fellow prisoners and engaging with medical personnel, and has also learned English, and also noted how he “has learned from his mistakes and deeply regrets his actions in the past.” Erin Thomas also highlighted his regrets, his dedication to medicine, to learning English, and to art, and also described in detail the support of his family, including “working with the Red Cross to obtain a petition for his release, which has been signed by nearly 100 individuals attesting to Bashir’s good character.” She also described how he “has the personal qualities necessary to lead a successful and peaceful life,” adding, “I know him to be a kind, compassionate, and sincere person.”

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 28 Apr 2016
Bashir Nasir Ali Al-Marwalah, ISN 837
Personal Representative Opening Statement

Members of the Board, we are the Personal Representatives for Bashir Nashir Ali Al-Marwalah. When we first went to meet Bashir, he explained to me that he was very happy that we were there and he felt hopeful for the future. His demeanor is one of a serious, thoughtful man which both my partner and I can confirm.

Bashir comes from a large family that works in the medical field. Bashir learned how to work in the medical field by accompanying his father to work throughout his school years. Bashir graduated from the Higher Institute for Health Services, Nursing School Branch. Upon his transfer, even if Bashir is not able to return to Yemen, his education and experience will serve him well wherever he is reintegrated. Bashir’s goals for his future involve continuing his education, as he values knowledge, a career, building his own family and someday reconnecting with his family back home.

Bashir has spent much of his time reading and studying the medical field. In fact, whenever he has the chance, he helps other detainees with his medical knowledge. Bashir also takes the opportunity to engage with medical personnel to ask questions in order to keep his skills sharp. Bashir has spent much of his time reading many health and medical books and journals which we have included as an exhibit in his case file. In fact, because of Bashir’s passion for health, he has requested that he be allowed to assist medical personnel here at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) in the treatment of other detainees.

As you will see during Bashir’s opening statement [note: not made publicly available], he is also working on his English. He will not leave GTMO the same way he arrived. Bashir has broadened his mind. He has the support of his family and is looking to create a successful career and future. Additionally Bashir made friends with American attorneys who have worked with him in the past. These attorneys have stated they stand ready to offer support for Bashir wherever he may be transferred.

We appreciate you taking time to hear his case and your consideration for transfer. Bashir has learned from his mistakes and deeply regrets his actions in the past. As a result Bashir does not pose a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. Bashir understands that in order to be recommended for transfer he must first gain the board’s unanimous recommendation for transfer. Therefore he is willing and ready to answer any and all of your questions. We and Bashir’s Private Counsel are here throughout this proceeding to answer your questions as well.

Statement of Private Counsel Erin E. Thomas

Members of the Board, good morning. I am Erin Thomas, private counsel for Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah. Bashir and I first met in early 2011, when I was an attorney at Allen & Overy LLP. Bashir is now a client of my current firm, Covington & Burling LLP. I am thankful for the opportunity to explain to the Board why Bashir does not present a threat to the security of the United States or its allies.

Bashir deeply regrets the choices that he made as a young man, and their cost to both himself and the members of his family. If Bashir had not chosen to leave Yemen, he would still be close to his beloved family. As the oldest brother, he would have been around to provide guidance to his siblings. He would know his youngest sister and youngest brother who were both born after Bashir left. He would have a career, and likely a family of his own. His children would play with their cousins under the care of Bashir’s mother, just as his sisters’ children do while their own mothers go to work.

In short, Bashir longs for the things he has lost. He is ready to put the past behind him, and is eager to build a productive life outside of Guantánamo. Importantly, Bashir has demonstrated that he is very well-positioned to accomplish these goals.

First, He is trained as a nurse. He was employed at the Republic Hospital in Sana’a fulfilling a life-long dream to work in the medical field and help people. Bashir was an exemplary and well-liked nurse, as attested to by the support statements of 12 colleagues and teachers.

While at Guantánamo, Bashir has continued his nursing education. At Bashir’s request, his lawyers have sent him numerous medical books in English and Arabic. Bashir frequently brings his coursework to meetings with his attorneys, covered with painstaking notes and translations of medical vocabulary.

Bashir also completed a life skills and nutrition course with a 96% average. Bashir proactively seeks out other opportunities to improve his medical training, including practicing vocabulary with doctors from the Red Cross and in the camps.

Bashir’s nursing expertise will allow him to build a career in any country to which he is transferred. Bashir appreciates, however, that his Yemeni credentials may not be immediately recognized in another country, and has no objection to taking a less specialized job, for example as a home health aide or orderly.

Second, Bashir has used his time in Guantánamo to improve other skills. When we first met, Bashir and I communicated through a translator. Now we can hold a three hour meeting speaking exclusively in English. When he is not studying, Bashir stays productive with activities such as art classes. Bashir has the full support from his art teacher.

Bashir is also preparing himself to be a loving husband and father. He left Yemen a young, unmarried man who never had the opportunity to be in a relationship with a woman. Bashir studies materials on healthy relationships and child rearing. He desires a wife who is a true partner in life.

Third, Bashir enjoys a strong support network. Bashir is much loved and deeply missed by his family. They are proud of his efforts to improve his education while in Guantánamo.

Bashir’s family has demonstrated that they will do whatever they can to support him. They have furnished an apartment for him in Sana’a. While they recognize that Bashir cannot return to Yemen at this time, they can rent or sell the apartment to support him in another country. His family has also purchased wedding jewelry for his future wife. If this jewelry cannot be used, the family can sell it and send the proceeds to him.

Bashir’s father and siblings are employed, and have remained so during a very difficult period in Yemen. Bashir’s father, one sister as well as his two brothers are all employed at the Republic Hospital. Another sister recently began working at a private hospital nearby. The family has property in Sana’a and in the village of Bayt al-Marwalah.

Bashir’s family also actively assisted with the preparation of this submission, working with the Red Cross to obtain a petition for his release, which has been signed by nearly 100 individuals attesting to Bashir’s good character. Bashir’s oldest sister, is a busy, working mother of four, obtained the character affidavits and Bashir’s school and employment records during a period when Sana’a has been wracked by fighting and faces severe restrictions on its infrastructure and communications network. In short, Bashir’s loving family can — and has demonstrated that they will — support him financially and emotionally following his transfer.

Bashir’s former attorneys have also pledged their support. I too am prepared to assist Bashir through phone conversations, visits if possible, financial assistance, and serving as a point of contact for authorities in his country of transfer if needed. I have experience with this through my support of a former detainee client who was transferred to Europe. We are in regular contact, and I plan to visit him later this year. I am also assisting him in completing college courses that I enrolled him in while he was in Guantánamo.

Bashir’s current and former law firms, Covington & Burling and Allen & Overy, are also prepared to explore whether they have any useful contacts in Bashir’s proposed or actual country of transfer that could assist with Bashir’s transition to life post-Guantánamo. The human rights organization Reprieve has offered to share contacts, best practices, and other resources for supporting a client after transfer.

Fourth, Bashir has the personal qualities necessary to lead a successful and peaceful life. I know him to be a kind, compassionate, and sincere person. Throughout his decade-long relationship with his American attorneys, he has been unfailingly gracious, thankful for our work, and curious about the way we live. He sends thank you notes after we visit, and letters of congratulations when we get married or have children. Bashir has never expressed bitterness, anti-American sentiment, or extremist views to us.

Bashir’s lawyers are far from the only people who feel this way. Bashir’s written submission includes letters and videos of support from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as fellow detainees. Bashir’s good nature extends to the Guantánamo guard force. His unclassified summary confirms that his behavior has been highly compliant.

*****

Fifteen years ago, a young man made a decision he regrets. In the intervening years, that man has matured, reflected on his regret, and worked tirelessly to channel that regret into self-improvement. A strong support network stands behind him, ready to help. He sits before you, ready to answer your questions and to tell you about the new life that he longs to begin. I am confident that Bashir will not let anything distract him from accomplishing his goals.

Members of the Board, thank you for your time and consideration. I respectfully submit that you should recommend Bashir al-Marwalah for transfer.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

23 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at the two Periodic Review Boards that took place last week – for two Yemeni “forever prisoners” still held at ‪Guantanamo‬. One, Uthman Abd al-Rahim Uthman, was ordered released by a US judge in 2010, after he granted his habeas corpus petition, but politically-motivated right-wing appeals court judges later reversed that ruling. The other, Bashir al-Marwalah, is one of six men initially regarded as part of a Karachi-based Al-Qaeda plot, which didn’t actually exist, as the US government now accepts. I hope both men have their release recommended.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Lucia Sol wrote:

    Poor people…

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Lucia Sol wrote:

    Sharing

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks. Lucia. Yes, it’s all too easy for people in general to forget that Guantanamo is still open and that it still holds people who are not of any great significance, and do not constitute any kind of threat to the US. I’m glad to be able to publicize these men’s stories, to highlight this in the cases of so many of the men going up before the PRBs, but of course it’s a shame that their stories are getting almost no coverage at all in the mainstream US media.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I’ve also just updated the definitive PRB list on the Close Guantanamo website: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Periodic-Review-Boards

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Dianne Carey wrote:

    I can’t remember do they have the right to sue the psychologist that came up with the torture plan??? hopefully it gives detainee some serious rights.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Some prisoners are currently trying to sue the psychologists who came up with the torture program, Dianne, and a judge recently gave them the go-ahead to proceed, for the first time. I wrote about it here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2016/05/02/in-historic-ruling-us-court-allows-lawsuit-against-james-mitchell-and-bruce-jessen-architects-of-cia-torture-program-to-proceed/

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Dianne Carey wrote:

    Andy, good about time individuals carrying out or inventing carnage and terror be held “personally” responsible. if we sued the gov. we would be paying for it. I hope those creeps go to prison in the suspects homeland.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    We shall have to see how things develop, Dianne, but it’s a good start.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Sven Wraight wrote:

    Good luck, gentlemen!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sven. Good to hear from you.

  12. Donald says...

    “[J]ust 23 years old at the time”

    Actually, he would have been 20 at the time since he was born in 1980. It isn’t far-fetched to think a 20 year old would be a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. He would be legally an adult at that point and multiple detainees (including 9/11 suspect Khallad) confirm Uthman was one of OBL’s bodyguards. Basardh’s claim that a 17 year old ( “Abd al Razzaq Abdallah Ibrahim al Sharikh, ISN # 67)” would be a bodyguard is ridiculous.

    Anyway, the PRB is not determining Uthman’s innocence. Just his current mindset.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Donald,
    Of relevance, I think, is a new article by Jenifer Fenton for Al-Jazeera, entitled, “Guantanamo: The last-chance hearings.”
    She spoke to the best-selling author and journalist and Central Asian expert Ahmed Rashid about the “Dirty Thirty” allegations. From the article:

    Analysts do not think all these “Dirty Thirty” men could have been bodyguards for bin Laden.

    “I doubt it very much,” said Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and expert on the region. Bin Laden’s bodyguards “knew him for a decade or more, some he even brought from Sudan. I doubt if he would have hired new guys.”

  14. Donald says...

    I trust the recent intelligence assessments more. Uthman and Bashir have a better chance of being approved for transfer than the prosecution detainees. They don’t have big mouths (e.g. threating to become recidivists)

    Anyway, great news for you. Salem Bin Kanad has been APPROVED for transfer. He made a smart choice in participating in his hearing.

    http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN131/131FullReview/160505_U_ISN131_FINAL_DETERMINATION_PUBLIC.pdf

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the info, Donald.

  16. Martin says...

    Bashir has been approved for transfer. As you and Donald mentioned, remorse, accepting responsibility, not being a leader and especially not having big mouths are key to winning freedom.

    http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN837/160531_U_ISN837_FINAL_DETERMINATION_PUBLIC.pdf

  17. Martin says...

    Haroon Afghani’s PRB hearing is scheduled for June 14. I guess the PRB will work on Flag Day.

    Haroon al-Afghani (ISN 3148) 3/30/2016 6/14/2016

    The only non-high value detainees left without hearings are the Rabbani brothers (alleged KSM lieutenants), Ismael Bakush (alleged bombmaker and trainer), Omar Rammah (alleged terrorist plot operative), Haji Wali Mohammed (alleged al-Qaeda financial operative) and Hassan Bin Attash (brother of high value detainee and alleged terrorist plot operative).

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, Martin. I’ll be writing about it soon. My article about Sufyian Barhoumi’s PRB is next.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for letting me know, Martin. I hadn’t seen that notification until you mentioned it.

  20. Martin says...

    The PRB hasn’t bought the “Quran” story. As former FBI agent Ali Soufan pointed out, it was just a cover story and the Dirty 30 were all al-Qaeda bodyguards or operatives. Mohammed Ansi and Uthman Uthman are still continuing to pretend to be missionaries which led to them being denied transfer because their cover story is “not credible.”

    “The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.
    In making this determination, the Board considered the detainee’s past involvement in terrorist activities to include receiving combat training, staying in al-Qaeda guesthouses, fighting in the Tora Bora mountains probably against Coalition Forces, and his selection to be a bodyguard for Usama Bin Ladin. The Board also noted that the detainee’s explanation for why he went to Afghanistan and what he did there was not credible. Further, the Board considered that the detainee’s vague answers and almost complete lack of candor made it difficult for the Board to assess his current state of mind and intentions for the future, and that his prior statements suggests that he retains anti-US sentiments and is sympathetic to extremist causes.”

    http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN027/160526_U_ISN027_FINAL_DETERMINATION.pdf

    As for whether coalition forces were in Tora Bora, I don’t know.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Ali Soufan may well have been right, Martin, that none of that group were anything other than soldiers, but I simply don’t buy the bin Laden bodyguard story in most cases. Many of those caught were very young, and fairly new arrivals in Afghanistan. My understanding is that bin Laden was protected by hardened mujahideen.
    Coalition forces weren’t in Tora Bora, as such. They provided bombs to accompany the Afghans who were their proxy force on the ground.

  22. Holly says...

    Sorry to be so rude but oh my gosh these men are so scary and ugly.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    If you say so, Holly. I didn’t think so personally – and I’m also aware that people might not be at their best after years of abuse and being held without charge or trial.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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