Guantanamo Detainee Abdul Ahmed’s Review Board Hearing

By Adelma Jakupovic

The Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB) conducted its 22nd hearing on Tuesday to review the case of Abdul Rahman Ahmed, a 36-year-old Yemeni national who has been detained at Guantanamo for more than a decade.

After being wounded by a coalition airstrike in 2001, Afghan forces detained and imprisoned him at the Qala-i-Janghi fortress. Ahmed is believed to have been a member of al Qaeda with prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He is also alleged to have received militant training and engaged in hostilities toward the United States and its allies. Transferred to Guantanamo in 2002, Ahmed was designated an indefinite detainee.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Ahmed’s personal representative and private counsel argued that he presents no threat to the United States, highlighting the positive changes he made since 2009. They underscored his desire for education, ability to appreciate different perspectives, and participation in activities that helped him grow and mature. The government noted that prior to 2012, Ahmed was “moderately noncompliant,” but that his behavior improved. His representative and counsel emphasized his spirited and cordial nature, as well as his cooperation with staff.

The U.S. government acknowledges that Ahmed may have exaggerated his involvement in terrorism during interrogation. It claimed that it is unlikely he played a key role in terrorist activities, and that al Qaeda leaders and associated figures did not identify him as a member of their group. Even Ahmed has distanced himself from his previous statements. He no longer expresses support for terrorism and hostility toward the United States, and now condemns Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s policies.

During the unclassified portion of the PRB hearing, members of the panel had the opportunity to ask Ahmed questions, but they did not take it.

Ahmed’s counsel stated that he is eager to participate in a rehabilitation program. While Ahmed has a strong support system from his immediate and extended family in Yemen, he is willing to reside in any country that would help him build a new life.

Even if Ahmed’s transfer is approved, he may not be relocated any time soon. Dozens of people remain locked up at Guantanamo. PRB hearings themselves have moved at an alarmingly slow pace. As of yesterday, no other detainees have PRBs scheduled. If President Obama wants to see Guantanamo closed by the end of his term, he should start by stepping up the pace of PRB hearings and transfers.

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Published on October 1, 2015

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