An Afghan and a Yemeni “Black Site” Prisoner Face Guantánamo Periodic Review Boards, as 21st Man Approved for Release

11.5.16

Yemeni prisoner Salem Bin Kanad, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.In President Obama’s last year in office, efforts are clearly being made to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay on his second day in office, back in January 2009. 27 men have been freed this year, leaving just 80 still held, the lowest number since the early months of the prison’s existence back in 2002.

27 of those 80 men have been approved for release — 15 since 2010, when the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force appointed by President Obama to review the cases of all the prisoners he inherited from George W. Bush delivered its final report, and 12 since January 2014, when another review process, the Periodic Review Boards, began delivering decisions about the majority of the men not already approved for release. Just ten of the 80 men still held are facing — or have faced — trials, and the rest are eligible for PRBs.

21 men have so far been approved for release by the PRBs, and nine of those men have been freed. Just seven men have had their ongoing imprisonment recommended — a success rate for the prisoners of 75%, which thoroughly undermines the task force’s claims, made back in 2010, that they were “too dangerous to release.” The task force also claimed that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, but the truth is that the “too dangerous to release” tag was overstated, relying on unreliable information extracted from the prisoners themselves, and produced as a result of torture, other forms of abuse, or bribery (with better living conditions), or on an unnecessarily cautious notion of the threat they posed, based on their attitudes while imprisoned at Guantánamo in defiance of all civilized norms.

In moving towards closing Guantánamo, the Obama administration has increased the speed at which the PRBs are taking place, to ensure that they are completed before the end of Obama’s presidency, and currently two PRBs are taking place every week.

Below, I discuss their hearings of the two men who had their cases reviewed last week, after a discussion of the 21st man to have his release recommended, on May 5 — Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad (ISN 131) aka Salem Ahmed Hadi, and initially described as Salem Ben Kend. A Yemeni, born in 1975, he first had his case reviewed by a PRB in April 2014 and his ongoing imprisonment recommended a month later, in large part because he had refused to turn up for his hearing. Since then, three purely administrative reviews of his case (file reviews) have taken place, when his detention was upheld, but on April 5 he received a second review (a full review), which he took part in, and as a result of which his release has been recommended. It is, therefore, probably only a matter of time before he is released and returned to his family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In determining, by consensus, “that continued law of war detention of the detainee does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” the board “noted the low threat level presented by the detainee in light of his lack of advanced training and any significant leadership role with the Taliban,” prior to his capture in Afghanistan in November 2001. A survivor of a notorious massacre by US, British and Northern Alliance forces, at the Qala-i-Janghi fort in northern Afghanistan, his classified military file, released by WikiLeaks in 2011, revealed that, in the massacre, he was “shot in the chest and legs.”

The board was also satisfied with his engagement with the process, compared to his refusal to take part two years ago, and the members stated that they had  “considered [his] increased cooperation with the PRB process, information regarding [his] family support and plans to assist [him],” as well as noting that he “was generally forthright regarding his associations, and that [he] expressed a willingness to participate in a rehabilitation program,” which is available in Saudi Arabia. Just three weeks ago, nine Yemenis with strong Saudi connections (who were either born there or grew up there) were released in Saudi Arabia to go through the rehabilitation program.

The board also noted that “both [bin Kanad] and his family lack links to extremists outside of Guantánamo,” and that he “has remained mostly compliant with the guard force at Guantánamo, with his last violent offense occurring in 2013.” He was also encouraged “to continue regularly attending classes and continue engaging with family members to prepare himself for transfer.”

Salem bin Kanad is the fourth prisoner to have a full review after initially being turned down for release. All four had their release approved, and two have been freed.

Below is the opening statement of his personal representatives (military personnel assigned to represent him in the PRB process) from his full review on April 5, in which, even in the absence of a civilian attorney representing him, they spoke approvingly of his engagement with the process, his good behavior at Guantánamo, his interest in studying, and his engagement with medical staff to address what are described as his “chronic health issues,” which, to the best of my knowledge, have not been remarked upon before. In 2008, in his military file later released by WikiLeaks, he was described as being “in overall good health.”

Periodic Review Board, 05 April 2016
Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad, ISN 131
Personal Representative Statement

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the board. We are the Personal Representatives for ISN 131. Thank you for the opportunity to present Mr. Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad’s case.

For the past year, Salem has willingly participated in the Periodic Review Board process and has attended all meetings with his Personal Representatives. During this time, Salem has conducted himself in a professional manner throughout our engagements. We would characterize his personality as reserved, but warm.

In his approximately fourteen years at Guantánamo, he has demonstrated a history of compliant behavior and has not presented any significant force-protection problems while at Guantánamo. His good behavior is evidenced by the fact that he resides within a facility where only the most compliant detainees are authorized to live. In fact, his fellow detainees once elected him as the block leader and entrusted him with the responsibility of addressing detainee issues with the security guard force.

He has constructively engaged with the Joint Task Force Medical Staff in order to address and manage his chronic health issues. This team approach has greatly improved his physical condition and quality of life. Hence, he has resolutely pursued a daily exercise regimen of self care which includes cardiovascular activities.

He has taken advantage of the educational opportunities while detained at Guantánamo. These opportunities include English, Computer Science, and Life Skills classes where Salem looks forward to utilizing one day when he is reunited with his family members in Saudi Arabia. Salem would like to return to his home in Riyadh where he desperately wants to reunite with his father, brothers, and sisters.

All of his family members have pledged unwavering financial support, a place of residence, and assistance with his enrollment in a vocational school to further his education in English and Computer Science. He’s confident these studies, along with the sales experience he gained while working in his father’s auto detailing business will set him up well for a career in sales and marketing in order to be a supportive father to his daughters.

We are certain that Salem’ s desire to pursue a better way of life if transferred from Guantánamo is genuine and that he does not represent a continuing or significant threat to the United States of America. Salem is open to transfer to any country, but would prefer an Arabic speaking country if possible where he can be a productive member of society and live the rest of his life in peace.

Thank you for your time and attention. We are pleased to answer any questions you may have throughout these proceedings.

The PRB for Karim Bostan, an Afghan shopkeeper

Afghan prisoner Karim Bostan, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Last Tuesday (May 3), an Afghan, Karim Bostan (ISN 975), who is 48 years old (and has sometimes been described by the US authorities as Bostan Karim), became the 34th prisoner to have his case considered. Back in October 2011, he had his habeas corpus petition turned down by a District Court judge, but only after appeals court judges had gutted habeas of all meaning, by insisting that everything the US government presented as evidence, however risible, should be regarded as accurate unless it could specifically be proven that it was not.

At the time, I pointed out how the cases of the Afghans demonstrated a particular peculiarity of Guantánamo — “the desire, on the part of successive US administrations, to hold, in a prison supposedly associated with terrorism, Afghans allegedly involved in minor acts of insurgency against the US occupation of their country.”

I proceeded to state:

In Bostan’s case, the evidence has always been thin, to put it charitably. A preacher and a shopkeeper, he was seized on a bus that traveled regularly between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was reportedly “apprehended because he matched the description of an al-Qaeda bomb cell leader and had a [satellite] phone,” which he had apparently been asked to hold by a fellow passenger, Abdullah Wazir (who was released from Guantánamo in December 2007). Other allegations were made by another Afghan, a young man named Obaidullah [reviewed by a PRB on April 19], who said in Guantánamo that he had made false allegations (and had also falsely incriminated Bostan), while he was being abused by US soldiers in Khost and Bagram.

As he explained: “The first time when they [US soldiers] captured me and brought me to Khost they put a knife to my throat and said if you don’t tell us the truth and you lie to us we are going to slaughter you … They tied my hands and put a heavy bag of sand on my hands and made me walk all night in the Khost airport … In Bagram they gave me more trouble and would not let me sleep. They were standing me on the wall and my hands were hanging above my head. There were a lot of things they made me say.”

Nevertheless, in its unclassified summary for Bostan’s PRB, the government described him as “probably the leader of an al-Qa’ida-associated improvised explosive device (IED) cell that targeted Coalition Forces in Khowst, Afghanistan,” who “probably planned, directed, or conducted multiple attacks against Coalition Forces,” and who “also was probably an al-Qa’ida member who took orders from al-Qa’ida leaders in Pakistan, particularly senior paramilitary commander Abu Layth al-Libi [aka Abu Laith al-Libi].” It was also noted that “[s]ome reporting” — presumably, even less reliable than the reports that produced the three uses of the word “probably” in the first set of allegations above — “indicates that he facilitated al-Qa’ida members’ and foreign fighters’ escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan following the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom.”

In contrast, it was noted, Bostan himself “has consistently denied affiliation with any terrorist or extremist group or involvement in any terrorist or extremist activities,” and “has been highly compliant with the guard staff at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility since his arrival in March 2003, according to Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO), committing a low number of infractions compared to other detainees.”

It was also noted that he “met somewhat regularly with interrogators until November 2012, probably because he believed he could convince them of his long-professed innocence and increase the likelihood that he would be transferred back to Afghanistan.” In addition, although mention was made of him “talking extensively about Jamaat Tablighi (JT),” the huge missionary organization with which he was involved, “he provided no information of value.” The personnel who compiled the summary also stated, “We assess that he ended his interrogations out of frustration about his continued detention.” That may be so, but, to be honest, it surprised me to hear about interrogations still continuing at Guantánamo, when, to be blunt, nothing of value could realistically be expected from people deprived of their liberty and removed from any field of operations for 14 years.

The summary also noted that Bostan “has not expressed any intent to re-engage in extremist activity or espoused any anti-US sentiment that would indicate he views the US as an enemy,” but it was claimed that “several members of [his] alleged IED cell, who are former detainees, have reengaged in extremist activity in Khowst, Afghanistan, including a nephew who is close to him, and could provide him opportunities to reengage should he choose to do so.” It should be noted that it has not been possible to verify the claims of recidivism attributed to the unnamed “former detainees” mentioned above.

Below, in contrast, are the opening statements of Bostan’s personal representatives, who described him as “a loving father and grandfather,” who “only wants to return home to enjoy his family in peace during the years he has left,” and his attorney, Paul Rashkind, an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Southern District of Florida, who, as a Public Defender, was not able to attend in person. Rashkind reiterated the importance of family to his client, who he has represented for 11 years, and wanted to make it clear to the board that, “when he says today that he regrets the turmoil that caused his detention, and that he seeks nothing more than a quiet life with his family, I know his words are heartfelt and credible.”

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 03 May 2016
Karim Bostan, ISN 975
Personal Representative Opening Statement

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Board. We are the Personal Representatives of Karim Bostan and will be assisting Mr. Bostan this morning with his case.

Mr. Bostan has been overjoyed and eager to participate in the Periodic Review Process since we first met with him in late February 2016. Once we explained why we were meeting with him he began to smile. He expressed his pleasure in attending future meetings with us.

Karim has been gracious and respectful during each scheduled meeting. During these meetings, we found out that Karim is a loving father and grandfather who dreams daily of returning home to reunite with his family. He has two daughters and four sons. Karim has yet to meet his youngest son as he was born after his detention. He has also never met his grandchildren.

Karim is one of the older detainees in Guantánamo Bay. He is over 48 years old and only wants to return home to enjoy his family in peace during the years he has left.

Karim has taken advantage of the educational opportunities here at the detention center and learned how to read and write in Pashto. Karim told us numerous times how he can’t wait to tell his family the importance of literacy in today’s world. He is very proud of his writing skills. Karim also owns a wedding rental store that his son-in-law now manages. Additionally Karim has learned the importance of daily exercise which has greatly improved his physical fitness. So much so that when he returns he plans to purchase a treadmill to continue his exercise regime.

We are confident that Karim’s desire to pursue a better way of life if transferred from Guantánamo Bay is genuine. Karim is willing to answer any questions you may have. He is open to transfer to any country, but would prefer to return to Afghanistan if possible.

We remain convinced that Karim does not pose a significant threat to the security of the United States or any of its allies.

Thank you for your time and attention. We look forward to answering any questions you may have during this Board.

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 03 May 2016
Karim Bostan, ISN 975
Private Counsel Statement

Good morning. My name is Paul Rashkind. I am an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Southern District of Florida. In 2005, I was appointed by a federal judge to represent Karim Bostan in court proceedings seeking his release. I have been privileged to represent Mr. Bostan for over a decade. Because I have been his only legal counsel during this time, I am also serving as Private Counsel in this Periodic Review Board proceeding.

Please do not consider my physical absence from this hearing of the Board as a sign of disrespect. The Office of the Federal Public Defender is funded by the U.S. Government. The rules governing Periodic Review Board proceedings require that Private Counsel serve “at no expense to the U.S. Government.” Because I cannot travel to this hearing, from Florida to Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, without expense to the U.S. Government, I am unable to attend this important hearing in person. I have, however, conferred with Mr. Bostan and his Personal Representatives to assist them in preparation for today’s proceeding.

***

Karim Bostan is a loving father and grandfather, a shopkeeper, and deeply reverent man. He embraces a dream to return to his home in Afghanistan, to live out his life with his children and grandchildren, and to assist in his family flower shop, a business he started and ran for many years.

To truly understand Mr. Bostan, one must consider the life he has lived. He was born over 48 years ago in a village of the Tanai tribe in Afghanistan. But he lived most of his formative years as a refugee in Pakistan, after being forced into exile during the Soviet Union’s invasion and occupation of his country. He lived his childhood and teenage years in refugee camps. His formal education was virtually nonexistent.

Mr. Bostan returned to Afghanistan in the early 1990’s, after the Soviet’s military and political occupation ended. He started a new life. He married and had a family — two daughters and four sons. Another daughter died in infancy. His children are a source of great pride. His eldest daughter, age 25, is now married and has three children of her own — Mr. Bostan’s grandchildren. He has only been able to visit with his grandchildren during video-calls arranged by the International Committee for the Red Cross. His eldest son is an excellent student who aspires to be a doctor. His younger children are also in school. He has never seen his youngest son, in person, because he was born shortly after Mr. Bostan’s detention.

When he returned to Afghanistan in 1993, Mr. Bostan started a business. He opened two modest flower shops in the Khost Bazaar. The shops rent and sell flowers, artificial flowers, decorations, and all the accoutrements for local weddings, including pots, pans, cooking supplies and freshly cooked meals. His shops became very popular and the business continues to be run by family members in his absence. The current proprietor is his son-in-law, the husband of his daughter and father of his grandchildren. His son-in-law visits with Mr. Bostan by video nearly every month, and he has told us that he and the family welcome Mr. Bostan’s repatriation.

Mr. Bostan has accepted his detention with a quiet grace. By all accounts, he has been a compliant detainee. He speaks only Pashto. Before he was detained, he had not learned to write, and could read very little. But he has devoted his time here to learning to write and read the Pashto language. He has taken classes, when available, and is very proud of his writing skills. As the Pashto-speaking population of detainees has been reduced, he and those who remain have formed a close community — to the extent permitted, they live communally, cooking and eating together.

I have visited with Mr. Bostan many times over the past decade. As one might expect, I have seen a range of emotions. One encounter has always stood out. It was shortly after we first met. Our Pashto interpreter, a young woman, was speaking with him in a private moment during a break between sessions. I could see tears in his eyes so I inquired. She explained that he told her she could be a daughter to him and seeing her reminded him how very much he missed his own family. She said his eyes welled with tears as he told her how much his family means to him and how difficult the years have been without them. This poignant moment offered more insight into Mr. Bostan than any interview or hearing might ever reveal. Far and away from a hearing room, I could see that family is, and has been, an important emotional bond for him. So, when he says today that he regrets the turmoil that caused his detention, and that he seeks nothing more than a quiet life with his family, I know his words are heartfelt and credible.

Mr. Bostan yearns for a life without the turbulence that has engulfed most of his years. He seeks to return to a simple life, with children and grandchildren, and the village he left behind. He looks forward to this opportunity to address the Board. And he prays that the Board will recommend his release, so he may rejoin his family as a proud father and grandparent.

The PRB for Sanad al-Kazimi, CIA “black site” prisoner

Yemeni prisoner Sanad al-Kazimi, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Last Thursday (May 5), a Yemeni, Sanad al-Kazimi (ISN 1453), who is 46 years old, became the 35th prisoner to have his case considered. Unlike Karim Bostan, one of 41 men facing PRBs who were mistakenly described as “too dangerous to release,” al-Kazimi is one of 23 prisoners initially recommended for prosecution, until the viability of the military commissions largely collapsed under scrutiny in the court of appeals in Washington, D.C.

As I described his story in an article in February 2009:

Sanad al-Kazimi … has had a particularly bleak time. Accused of training in Afghanistan in 2001, swearing bayat [an oath of loyalty] to Osama bin Laden, and then of being involved with al-Qaeda activities in the Gulf in 2002 after his escape from Afghanistan, he was seized in the United Arab Emirates in January 2003, handed over to US forces, and tortured in various facilities in Afghanistan, including the “Dark Prison” and Bagram, until his transfer to Guantánamo. He has explained that, in this period, he “endured horrific physical abuse”; specifically, that he was “subjected to sensory deprivation techniques, causing extreme disorientation and psychological stress, physical and sexual assault, threat of rape, and repeated plunging into pools of cold water while suspended in the air by a mechanical lift.”

More of his story is reported here, based partly on a report by Jane Mayer, who interviewed his [former] lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, but what has not been explained — if al-Kazimi is really so dangerous — is why he was not put forward for a trial by Military Commission. My hunch is that, although he was tortured as though he were a “high-value detainee” with knowledge of the workings of al-Qaeda, he was actually nothing of the sort, and was, at most, a peripheral character. Or it may even be, as he stated at his tribunal in Guantánamo, that, although he had sworn bayat to bin Laden; he “later swore against him, and was wondering why that second sworn statement was not put into this evidence.”

In addition, in 2010, a US judge refused to accept information submitted by the government in the habeas corpus petition of Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman (whose PRB, incidentally, took place two weeks ago), because it came from two men who had been tortured — one of whom was Sanad al-Kazimi (the other was Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj, whose PRB also took place recently — and whose request for release was turned down). Ruling on Uthman’s habeas corpus petition (which he granted, although the appeals court then overturned that ruling), District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. stated, “The Court will not rely on the statements of Hajj or Kazimi because there is unrebutted evidence in the record that, at the time of the interrogations at which they made the statements, both men had recently been tortured.”

Nevertheless, the authorities are clear that, as described in the unclassified summary for his PRB, al-Kazimi “was a member of al-Qa’ida who served about nine months as a bodyguard for Usama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan,” and who also “received basic training from al-Qa’ida and associated with some of its senior figures.” It was, however, acknowledged that he “was a somewhat disruptive and insubordinate figure within the ranks of al-Qa’ida, and left Afghanistan in late 2001 following the onset of Coalition operations there.”

In mid-2002, however, according to the summary, when he traveled to the United Arab Emirates, “he joined an al-Qa’ida cell led by senior operational planner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri,” currently facing a military commission trial, and “was tasked to smuggle explosives into the UAE to use in an attack against US or British ships docked there.” It was conceded that there is “no information suggesting [he] delivered the explosives, but he provided other forms of logistical support before Nashiri abandoned the plot.” It was also noted that al-Kazimi “has denied that he intended to support the plot, claiming his only interest was in receiving money from Nashiri.”

Furthermore, the summary suggests — although with two uses of the word “probably,” indicating that the information may not be reliable — that al-Kazimi “also probably served as a financial facilitator for the Yemen-based al-Qa’ida branch,” and “probably was aware that the money he facilitated would be used to support terrorist attacks, but may not have had prior knowledge about the specifics of the attacks.”

Turning to his time at Guantánamo, the summary noted that he “has been highly non-compliant, committing repeated assaults against detention staff, although his number of infractions has decreased since mid-2014.” It was also noted that “[h]is cooperation has been inconsistent with interrogators, ranging from providing information of value to refusing to answer questions and attempting to assault the interrogators,” and that he “has provided contradictory information about his views on al-Qa’ida and terrorist activities to interrogators, boasting of his al-Qa’ida knowledge and insights while criticizing the group’s ideology.” In addition, it was noted that he has “voiced extremist and anti-US sentiments.”

Finally, it was noted that al-Kazimi “has repeatedly said that he intends to be reunited with his wife and children in an Arabic speaking country post-detention,” and the authorities added that his family “probably remains in southern Yemen, where his sons have possibly joined AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula],” which may or may bot be true, although the use of the word “possibly” does not inspire confidence.

Nevertheless, the combination of the above indicates an uphill struggle for al-Kazimi to persuade the board that he should be recommended for release, despite the best efforts of his personal representatives and his attorney James Cohen, whose opening statements I’m posting below. The representatives characterized him as “open, honest, polite, passionate and very enthusiastic,” and noted how he  has “shown a gentle side while describing how he cares for a cat and her kittens within the camp.” They also spoke of the importance to him of his family, and how “he does not want them to make the same mistakes he has made.” James Cohen spoke about how his wife and children “have provided letters and video clips expressing their love and support,” and noted how he has always “demonstrated a genuine interest” in his lawyers’ lives.

It is not known what al-Kazimi said to the board, but Courthouse News reported that, during the hearing, video of him at Guantánamo showed him “wearing a white shirt with sleeves down to his elbows. A pair of eyeglasses hung on a slim chain around his neck, which he slid on and off throughout the public portion of proceedings.” It was also noted that “he fidgeted, rubbing his eyes and touching his sizeable black beard.”

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 05 May 2016
Sanad Ali Yislam Al-Kazimi, ISN 1453
Personal Representative Opening Statement

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the board. We are the Personal Representatives for ISN 1453. Thank you for the opportunity to present Mr. Sanad Ali Yislam al-Kazimi’s case.

From our first meeting in early March, Sanad has willingly participated in the Periodic Review Board process and has attended all meetings with his Personal Representatives. During this time, Sanad has been very forthcoming with his answers to all of our questions. We would characterize his personality as open, honest, polite, passionate and very enthusiastic. He has also shown a gentle side while describing how he cares for a cat and her kittens within the camp.

Sanad is very passionate about returning to his family and desperately wants to reunite with his wife and children. His love and pride for his wife and children is unmistakable and, despite the distance between them, he has taken a very active role in raising his sons and daughters. Missing his daughter’s wedding was very hard on him, he said it was the first time he cried. He has also told us how his children compete with their grades in order to impress him. Sanad has forbidden his sons to apply to the military or the police academy due to the instability in the country and the government and therefore the uncertainty of the future in either field. Instead, his older son has submitted his grades and applied for schooling in the field of oil science, while the younger one prefers a career in civil engineering. Sanad has encouraged their goals as he told us that every parent wants their kids to do better than them and he does not want them to make the same mistakes he has made. Both careers would also allow them to work anywhere, ensuring a much more stable future.

All of his family members have pledged unwavering financial and emotional support regardless of where he is transferred to. He has taken advantage of the educational opportunities while detained at Guantánamo, taking classes in English, Computer Science and Life Skills. His English is very good and with that, his studies here at GTMO, and his previous work experience we believe that he will be able to find good honest work wherever he may be transferred and will be able to provide a peaceful life for his family.

We are certain that Sanad’s desire to pursue a better way of life if transferred from Guantánamo is genuine and that he does not represent a continuing significant threat to the United States of America.

Sanad is open to transfer to any country, but would prefer an Arabic speaking country if possible. His only wish is to be a productive member of society and live the rest of his life in peace with his family.

Thank you for your time and attention. We are pleased to answer any questions you may have throughout these proceedings.

Periodic Review Board Initial Hearing, 05 May 2016
Sanad Ali Yislam Al-Kazimi, ISN 1453
Private Counsel Opening Statement

I am James Cohen, Private Counsel to Mr. Sanad al-Kazimi for the Periodic Review Board, and along with my colleague, Martha Rayner, I have represented Mr. al-Kazimi for over ten years. Professor Rayner and I are full time professors at Fordham University School of Law, where we teach in the school’s clinical education program.

I have met with Mr. al-Kazimi extensively over the past ten years and developed a far-reaching personal and professional relationship with him. This includes legal guidance and advocacy in a host of fora both domestic and international, personal support, and preparation for this hearing today.

Mr. al-Kazimi was captured in 2003 when he was thirty-three years old. He was already married with four children. His youngest was less than two years old and his oldest just seven at the time. Now, he is forty-six. His children’s ages range from fifteen to twenty-two years old. Mr. al-Kazimi’s family has kept in regular, consistent contact with him through International Committee of the Red Cross phone calls, even during this last year when the war in Yemen has uprooted them. He understands that repatriation to Yemen is not feasible at this time and will accept resettlement to whatever country the United States deems acceptable. He plans to find full-time employment and support himself wherever he is placed.

Throughout my time representing Mr. al-Kazimi, I have met and had several conversations with his family. In fact, our legal team has been in consistent contact with them over the past several weeks to prepare for this hearing. His wife and children have provided letters and video clips expressing their love and support. While his family is aware that he may not be able to return to his home country of Yemen, they have pledged to continue to provide this love and support and will strive to be reunited with him in his new home, wherever that may be.

In addition, prior members of Mr. al-Kazimi’s legal team have provided letters to the PRB detailing their positive experiences and knowledge from working with him. This includes law students, civilian employees of the military, and military officers.

At every meeting throughout our decade-long relationship, Mr. al-Kazimi has demonstrated a genuine interest in Martha’s and my life, our respective families’ well-being, and our health and travels. I, along with Fordham University School of Law’s clinical program, am committed to providing the support necessary to assist Mr. al-Kazimi to establish a peaceful and productive life upon resettlement.

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.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at the most recent news from ‪‎Guantanamo‬’s Periodic Review Boards: the decision to free Salem Bin Kanad, a Yemeni, two years after a PRB first refused to recommend his release, while two other men – Karim Bostan, an Afghan, and Sanad al-Kazimi, a Yemeni held and tortured in CIA “black sites” – asked to be freed. 21 men have now been approved for release via PRBs, while seven men have had their detention upheld – a 75% success rate for men described, inappropriately, as “too dangerous to release” by a US government task force back in 2010.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. It’s much appreciated – especially with the mainstream media’s general indifference to the PRBs. I’ve just updated my definitive Periodic Review Board list on the Close Guantanamo​ website: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Periodic-Review-Boards

  3. Martin says...

    Bostan Karim has been approved for transfer. Uthman has been denied transfer. Still no word on Said Nishir. I’m pleasantly surprised about Karim reuniting with his family. I knew Uthman was a bodyguard so I’m not shocked that he was denied transfer.

    http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN975/20160602_U_ISN_975_FINAL_DETERMINATION.pdf

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

  4. Martin says...

    Salman Rabaie denied transfer. Not surprised given his anti-U.S. statements. Took them long enough.

    http://www.prs.mil/Portals/60/Documents/ISN508/20160519_U_ISN_508_FINAL_DETERMINATION.pdf

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Martin. You’re very alert. I was out at a band rehearsal. I got back and had also received an email from a journalist friend about this as well.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    It certainly did take them a long time, Martin. Thanks for letting me know.

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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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