Gitmo prisoner cleared for release after 14 years in prison

An Afghan man who was charged with war crimes but never stood trial – and who eventually had the charges dropped – has been cleared for release by US authorities after 14 years behind bars at the prison complex in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision to clear the detainee, known only by the name Obaidullah, was made by the Periodic Review Board, which holds hearings for detainees in order to determine whether they qualify for release. In this case, the board stated that continued detention “does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

“The risk the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated,” the board added.

Believed to be about 36 years old now, Obaidullah was captured back in July 2002 in Afghanistan, where US forces found unactivated land mines buried near his home in the eastern city of Khost. According to Defense Department documents, Obaidullah was allegedly part of an Al-Qaeda cell in Khost, involved in the planning and carrying out of attacks against US and Coalition forces. The Defense Department alleged he had links to a high-ranking Al-Qaeda and considered him a high-risk target.

In 2008, Obaidulla was charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. However, he was never arraigned in court, nor did he ever face trial, and the charges were withdrawn in 2011. Despite that, he remained detained at the facility.

According to the Miami Herald, his attorneys said that an investigation revealed the land mines buried near his home dated back to the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s and that they were unarmed.

“This young man should have been released years ago,” Marine Maj. Derek Poteet, who represents Obaidullah, said Friday to the newspaper. “He was taken from his bed at his home peacefully without resistance. He was subjected to real abuse at Bagram.”

In documents from the Defense Department, the US said seven mines were empty while others were active.

In its announcement, the Periodic Review board determined that Obaidullah “has not expressed any intent to re-engage in terrorist activities, has not espoused any anti-US sentiment that would indicate he views the US as his enemy, [and] that neither the detainee nor his family have any ties to extremists outside of Guantanamo.”

News of Obaidullah’s clearance was welcomed by Aisha Maniar of the London Guantanamo Campaign, which has been pushing for the closure of Guantanamo, the release of all prisoners and an end to extraordinary rendition.

“This means that there are now 28 people at Guantanamo Bay who’ve been cleared for release and should be able to leave there quite soon,” she told RT.

However, she also expressed concern over the prospect of moving detainees to prisons in the US, as has been considered by the Obama administration. Maniar said that doing so

“They’ll be forgotten. It will just be much, much more difficult for people like us who are campaigners, for human rights activists,” she said. “The issue will go completely under the radar.”