Yemeni Seized in Georgia, Who Has Not Been Able to Make Contact With His Family in 13 Years at Guantánamo, Seeks Release Via Review Board

Yemeni prisoner Omar al-Rammah, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Last Thursday, July 21, a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo, Omar Muhammad Ali al-Rammah (ISN 1017), became the 54th prisoner to face a Periodic Review Board. The PRBs were set up in 2003 to review the cases of prisoners who had not already been approved for release, or were not facing trials, and to date 30 men have been approved for release, while 14 have had their ongoing imprisonment upheld. For further information, see my definitive Periodic Review Board list on the Close Guantánamo website.

This is a 68% success rate for the prisoners, and, as I explained in an article last week, these results are “remarkable — and remarkably damaging for the credibility of the Obama administration — because the majority of these men were described, by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama set up shortly after taking office in January 2009, as ‘too dangerous to release,’ when the reality has not borne out that caution.” I added, “Others were recommended for prosecution, until the basis for prosecutions in Guantánamo’s military commission trial system largely collapsed after a series of devastating appeals court rulings, confirming that the war crimes being tried were illegitimate, having been invented by Congress.”

Al-Rammah (also identified as Zakaria al-Baidany), who is 40 years old, was, as I explained in my book The Guantánamo Files, captured far from the battlefields of Afghanistan — in Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, with an Algerian, Soufian al-Hawari (ISN 1016), who was freed in November 2008. Al-Hawari explained in Guantánamo that he was formerly a drug user and petty thief in various European countries, but that he then became a devout Muslim, and traveled in 2001 to meet an old friend from Algeria called Abdul Haq in Georgia, where, as I described it, he said he “was captured on a bridge 50 miles from his friend’s house under the most extraordinary circumstances.” Read the rest of this entry »

EXCLUSIVE: Former Guantánamo Prisoner Shamil Khaziev Detained in Holland

In news that has reached me exclusively via John Walls, an attorney at law in the town of Prinsenbeek, in the Netherlands, it transpires that a former Guantánamo prisoner, Shamil Khaziev, a Russian citizen, is imprisoned in Amsterdam, as the Dutch authorities try to strip him of his right to remain in the Netherlands. This was granted under the Geneva Convention in 2007, after he successfully sought asylum following his persecution in Russia.

A Tatar from Bashkortostan, north of Kazakhstan, and a former police lieutenant, Khaziev was seized in Afghanistan in November 2001, and survived a notorious US-led massacre at Qala-i-Janghi, a fortress used as a prison, which was precipitated by an uprising amongst a number of the prisoners, who feared that their captors meant to kill them. He was released from Guantánamo, where he was mistakenly identified as Almasm Rabilavich Sharipov, in February 2004, but sought and was granted asylum in Holland in 2007 after being persecuted by the authorities in his home country.

After being repatriated from Guantánamo, he was imprisoned in Russia until June 2004, and then, as as Human Rights Watch explained:

[He] returned to Uchali, a small town in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, where his family lived. Human rights activist Alexandra Zernova, who met with Khazhiev on several occasions, said that he was repeatedly questioned by local FSB and UBOP officials after his return, and was briefly detained in Ufa, the Bashkortostan capital, in December 2004, on suspicion of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. He was released without charge. In September 2005, while riding on a train, he was questioned by UBOP officials from Samara. According to Zernova, Khazhiev has been unable to secure employment since his return from Guantánamo. He left Russia in March 2007. 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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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