In Trump’s Dying Days, Guantánamo Review Board Approves Yemeni Prisoner for Release

On the left: Said Salih Said Nashir (aka Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah), a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo who has just had his release approved by a Periodic Review Board. The other men are Moath al-Alwi and Omar al-Rammah, who, unfortunately, had their ongoing imprisonment upheld by PRBs, nearly three and four years respectively since their hearings took place.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In the three years and eleven months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been — until now — no good news from Guantánamo. That first piece of good news, reported by NPR on December 11, is that Said Salih Said Nashir, a 46-year old Yemeni held at Guantánamo without charge or trial for 18 years, has been unanimously approved for release from the prison by a Periodic Review Board.

Consisting of a panel of military and intelligence officials, the Periodic Review Boards were established by President Obama, to review the cases of men held at Guantánamo who had not been recommended for release by Obama’s first high-level review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force.

The task force’s report — recommending 156 prisoners for release, 36 for prosecution, and 48 for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial — was issued in January 2010, but by the time the PRBs took place, beginning in November 2013, just 41 of the 48 men recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial remained: two had died, and five others — high-ranking Taliban officials — were freed in a prisoner swap.

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Radio: My One-Hour Interview With Peter B. Collins About Closing Guantánamo, and Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing

Andy Worthington marking 6,900 days of the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and calling on President Elect Joe Biden to close it, on December 1, 2020, and a campaigner calling for an end to the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! This week is my latest quarterly fundraising week, and I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Last week I was honoured to be asked by the veteran talk radio host Peter B. Collins to take part in what is being billed as his ‘Last Interview’ series, as he retires from regular broadcasting after a 47-year career which began with him covering Watergate when he was just 19.

The show is available here, and here as an MP3 — and as this is my quarterly fundraising week, please be aware that I don’t receive any payment for my various TV and radio appearances, so if you can help with a donation, to enable me to keep writing about, campaigning about and talking about Guantánamo (and other human rights issues) across a variety of media, it will be very greatly appreciated!

Peter first interviewed me about Guantánamo — if I recall correctly, gazing back into the mists of time — back in 2009, and we have spoken many times since, as he largely moved from hosting talk radio shows into running his own subscriber-based podcasts.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) For My Work Campaigning to Get Guantánamo Closed in 2021

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020, the 18th anniversary of its opening, and interviewed on RT, in what was the only US broadcast media coverage of the anniversary.

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo into 2021.




 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s 15 years since I first began researching, writing about, and campaigning to get the shameful and disgraceful prison at Guantánamo Bay closed, and every three months I ask you, if you can, to support my work. Over the last 15 years, I’ve written over 2,300 articles about Guantánamo, had a book published, set up two campaigns, co-directed a film, worked with the UN and WikiLeaks, and made numerous TV, radio and personal appearances as part of the long struggle to free men from the prison — almost all held indefinitely without charge or trial — and, ultimately, to get the prison closed.

As a freelance journalist and campaigner, I’m reliant on your support, as I have no institutional backing. After four long and hard years of hopelessness under Donald Trump, who sealed Guantánamo shut, and entombed the 40 men still held without any prospect of either justice or release, Joe Biden’s victory in last month’s Presidential Election means that hope — of some sort — has returned. It is now reasonable to hope that the release of prisoners — halted under Trump — will resume, and that steps can be taken to revive Barack Obama’s sadly failed policy of closing Guantánamo once and for all.

It may well be that positive progress will not happen without significant pressure being exerted on the Biden administration to do the right thing, but where there is hope — as there really wasn’t under Trump — there is the possibility for meaningful action, and I am looking forward to finding ways to publicize the need for Guantánamo to be closed — hopefully including some sort of film project, and a book collecting the best of my writing about Guantánamo since 2007 — and also to find ways to get you involved, in addition to the ongoing photo campaign via the Close Guantánamo campaign, which I set up in 2012 with the attorney Tom Wilner.

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A Guantánamo Insider’s Detailed Proposal for How Joe Biden Can Finally Close the Prison

A composite image of President Elect Joe Biden and Camp 6 at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

With Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential Election, it’s reassuring that Guantánamo is back on the radar, after four long years under Donald Trump in which time may as well have stood still.

The Just Security website has just published a powerful article, “A Path for Renewing Guantánamo Closure,” which we’re cross-posting below. It was written by Benjamin R. Farley, who served as Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the U.S. Department of State from 2013-17, and is currently a Trial Attorney and Law-of-War Counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense, Military Commissions Defense Organization, assigned to the team representing Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the five co-defendants in the 9/11 trial.

Farley explains how, of the 40 men still held, 30 can be released “simply by restoring, with slight modification, the successful GTMO closure policy process developed during the Obama administration,” although he concedes that, “[t]o finish the remaining 25 percent of the project, [he] will likely need the historically elusive support of Congress.”

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Radio: I Discuss The Future of Guantánamo Under Joe Biden with Andy Bungay and Colin Crilly in South London

A screenshot from Mixcloud of Andy Bungay’s show ‘The Chiminea’ on Riverside Radio in Battersea on November 22, 2020, also featuring Colin Crilly.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in a remotely recorded radio show for Riverside Radio, a community station in Battersea, with Andy Bungay, who hosts ‘The Chiminea’, the 11pm to 2am slot on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and his colleague Colin Crilly.

Our interview starts about 27 minutes into the two-hour show, which is available on Mixcloud here, and Andy began by playing ‘This Time We Win’, a recently released eco-anthem by my band The Four Fathers, recorded with and featuring the great Charlie Hart on keyboards.

I then introduced myself, particularly mentioning my Guantánamo work, which I’ve been undertaking for the last 15 years, and my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’ We talked about the successful campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was held for 14 years without charge or trial, but was eventually released five years ago, on October 30, 2015, as I noted on Facebook, following up with a photo from a Parliamentary reception for Shaker, hosted by Jeremy Corbyn, which took place on November 17, 2015.

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As You Read This, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Has Been On A Hunger Strike for 2,846 Days

An image from the website, “Gitmo Hunger Strikes,” set up by Reprieve to highlight the plight of their client, Ahmed Rabbani.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

With the media spotlight hopefully being shone anew on the prison at Guantánamo Bay, now that Joe Biden has been elected as the US president, it is to be hoped that, as I explained in my recent article, President Elect Biden, It’s Time to Close Guantánamo, arrangements will be made to release the five men still held who were unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, and that there will be an acceptance within the Biden administration that holding 26 other men indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable.

These 26 men — accurately described as “forever prisoners” by the media — were recommended either or for prosecution, or for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, on the basis that they were “too dangerous to release,” even though it was acknowledged that insufficient evidence — or insufficient untainted evidence — existed for them to be charged, by the first of Obama’s two review processes, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, in 2009.

Four years later, the 26 — along with 38 others — were deemed eligible for a second review process, the Periodic Review Boards. Unlike the first process, which involved officials assessing whether prisoners should be freed, charged or held on an ongoing basis without charge or trial, the PRBs were a parole-type process, in which the men were encouraged to express contrition for the activities in which they were alleged to have been involved (whether those allegations were accurate or not), and to present credible proposals for a peaceful and constructive life if released.

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President Elect Biden, It’s Time to Close Guantánamo

Eight of the 40 remaining Guantánamo prisoners, who, along with other men still held, should be released by Joe Biden as soon as possible after he becomes president in January 2021. Top row, from L to R: Abdul Latif Nasser, Sufyian Barhoumi and Tawfiq al-Bihani, all approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, and Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner. Bottom row, from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Ahmed Rabbani and Omar al-Rammah. Paracha and the four others in the bottom row haven’t been approved for release, but they should be, as none of them pose a threat to the US.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Congratulations to President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris for persuading enough people to vote Democrat to end the dangerous presidency of Donald Trump.

Trump was a nightmare on so many fronts, and had been particularly dangerous on race, with his vile Muslim travel ban at the start of his presidency, nearly four long years ago, his prisons for children on the Mexican border, and, this last year, in his efforts to inflame a race war, after the murder of George Floyd by a policeman sparked huge protests across the country.

At Guantánamo, Trump’s racism manifested itself via indifference to the fate of the 40 Muslim men, mostly imprisoned without charge or trial and held for up to 15 years when he took office. To him they were terrorists, and he had no interest in knowing that very few of the men held at Guantánamo have ever been accused of involvement with terrorism, and that, of the 40 men still held, only nine of them have been charged with crimes, and five of them were unanimously approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

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Radio: I Discuss “Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?” on South Africa’s Radio Islam International

A screenshot from the podcast of Andy Worthington discussing “Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?” with Ebrahim Moosa on South Africa’s Radio Islam International on Nov. 8, 2020.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Yesterday evening, I was delighted to speak for half an hour to Ebraham Moosa on South Africa’s Radio Islam International about US President Elect Joe Biden — and, specifically, what to expect from the new president regarding a long-standing travesty of justice: the continued existence of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay.

In a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of the issues, I talked about what a disgrace Donald Trump has been when it comes to Guantánamo, entombing the 40 men still held, and how we can be hopeful that there will be change under Joe Biden, even if it also reasonable to expect that it will have to be fought for.

Unlike eleven years ago, when Barack Obama first took office promising to close Guantánamo within a year (but left eight years later having failed to do so), Guantánamo is, nowadays, America’s largely forgotten shame, and raising it as an issue — as Obama found — only tends to play into the hands of Republicans and the right-wing media.

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If Elected in November, Will Joe Biden Close Guantánamo?

A composite photo of Joe Biden and a guard tower at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

With just four months to go until the US Presidential Election, there is hope, in some quarters, that Donald Trump will lose to Joe Biden. The fact that this is not a foregone conclusion shows how broken American politics has become. Openly racist, Trump has been the most incoherent president imaginable, and is currently mired in a COVID-19 crisis of his own making, as the virus continues on its deadly path, largely unchecked, through swathes of the US population. And yet he retains a base of support that doesn’t make it certain that he will lose in November.

His opponent, Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, faces problems of his own. 77 years old, he is even older than Trump, and in terms of representing the people of the US, it is somewhat dispiriting that the choice is between two white men in their 70s. Nevertheless, on many fronts — not least on Guantánamo — it is inconceivable that Biden can do a worse job than Trump has over the excruciating three and a half years since he took office in January 2017.

On Guantánamo, Trump announced in a tweet, several weeks before his inauguration, that “there must be no more releases from Gitmo,” and he has been almost entirely true to his word. He inherited 41 prisoners from Obama, and only one of those men has been released — a Saudi citizen who was transferred back to Saudi Arabia for ongoing imprisonment in February 2018, to honor a plea deal agreed in his military commission trial in 2014.

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What’s Happening with Guantánamo?

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

The short answer to the question, “What’s Happening with Guantánamo?” twelve years and eight months after the prison opened, is, unfortunately, “very little.”

Seventeen men have been released since President Obama delivered a major speech on national security issues last May, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners after a period of nearly three years in which releases had almost ground to a halt, because of obstacles raised by Congress and the president’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles.

Of the 17 men released, eleven were cleared for release in 2009 by a high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office. However, of the 149 men still held, 75 others were also cleared for release by the task force, and their ongoing imprisonment is a disgrace. Four others have been cleared for release in recent months by Periodic Review Boards, established to review the cases of the majority of the men who were not cleared for release by the task force. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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