First Guantanamo panel verdict: Yemeni ‘forever prisoner’ recommended for transfer
A Yemeni (allegedly one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards), who spent 12 years at Guantanamo, previously deemed too dangerous for release, has been cleared for transfer by a military panel, set up by Obama’s administration to review detainee cases.
Mahmoud al Mujahid, 36, was among the first to arrive at the
detention facility in 2002. He is now the first to have his case
reconsidered by a Periodic Review Board (PRB), a panel consisting
of senior defense and intelligence officials. PRBs were
introduced in 2011, but weren’t summoned until Mujahid’s hearing
on November 20. The verdict of the first panel was released on
“By consensus, the PRB members found that continued law of
war detention is no longer necessary to protect against a
continuing significant threat to the United States and that
Mujahid is therefore eligible for transfer subject to appropriate
security and humane treatment conditions,” the US Department
of Defense statement reads.
The decision makes Mujahid one of 77 detainees who have been
approved for transfer from Guantanamo, which currently holds 155
inmates. It’s not yet clear when Mujahid will leave the facility
and where he will go, as transfers to his native Yemen have been
hampered by instability in the country.
Opponents of the repatriation, refer to the December-5 terrorist
which rocked Yemen’s Defense Ministry in the capital of Sanaa,
killing 52 people.
“I continue to be concerned about the security implications
of transferring dangerous people to dangerous places like
Yemen,” The New York Times cited Representative Howard P.
McKeon, Republican of California.
The Department of Defense statement says favorable conditions for
the Yemenis’ repatriation would include an improved security
situation in their native country, and an available
rehabilitation program there. They could also go to a third
country, if that option becomes available.
Currently 56 Yemenis, cleared for release, have been awaiting
their transfer. Mujahid’s attorney, David Remes, has urged a
speeding-up of the process.
“We are pleased with the decision. Now that Mahmoud has been
cleared, he can be transferred — there is no justification for
holding him,” Remes said, as cited by The Washington Post.
“After 12 years at Guantanamo, it is time to reunite him with
The Guantanamo Review Task Force, which reconsidered the
detainees’ cases prior to the establishment of the Periodic
Review Board system, held three hearings on Mujahid’s case in
2010. And each time it ruled to detain him indefinitely.
Mujahid is believed to have trained at Al-Qaeda camps in
Afghanistan and to have been one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards,
according to his profile made public on Thursday at the Periodic
Review Board Secretariat’s web-page. The allegations previously
made him one of 48 of the so called “forever prisoners” deemed
too dangerous ever to leave Guantanamo, but unable to face
charges due to lack of evidence.
Other unclassified Defense Department documents on Mujahid
describe him as a no-problem and cooperative detainee throughout
his 12 years at the facility. He learned English at Guantanamo,
attended computer classes and was twice elected block leader by
the prisoners for what he himself puts as his “ability to diffuse
Mujahid’s profile says he “has mentioned non-extremist
aspirations for life after Guantanamo.” The detainee elaborated
on what exactly he was going to do once freed in his appeal to
the Periodic Review Board.
“When I’m released I will look for work… I will want to get
married and start a family while I can perform my
responsibilities as a husband and a father. Most of all, I want
to catch up with life.”
The rest of the “forever prisoners” will also have their cases reconsidered by the military panel. The next hearing is due to take place on January 28.