Guantanamo Review Hearing for 49-Year-Old Pakistani Citizen

This morning, Gitmo detainee Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani received his first Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing. Rabbani is a 49-year-old Pakistani citizen who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since September 2004.

According to the U.S. government’s assessment, Rabbani “is an al-Qa’ida facilitator who worked directly for al-Qa’ida external operations chief Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM) from around 1999 until his arrest in September 2002.” They claim that he ran safe houses for al Qaeda in Karachi, Pakistan and helped al Qaeda fighters with logistics. The U.S. government believes that Rabbani’s access to KSM “probably positioned [him] to play a support role in al-Qa’ida operations,” but that he “most likely did not have specific insight into al-Qa’ida operational plans.”

His government profile also notes that he has been compliant with guard orders during his time at Guantanamo, and that he was open with interrogators immediately after his arrest in 2002. Rabbani has never admitted to any involvement in al Qaeda plots, but the United States believes he “may have an extremist mindset,” though they don’t offer any additional insight into the reasoning behind this assertion.

Rabbani’s personal representatives describe him as a quiet, poorly educated man, who only took the job with KSM in order to provide for his family. Prior to working for KSM, Rabbani struggled as a part-time taxi driver and soccer coach, and it was difficult for him to support his wife and two sons. His representatives state that Rabbani was unaware of the politics surrounding al Qaeda prior to taking the job with the group, and freely admits now that it was a mistake. They do not believe that Rabbani would pose a threat to the United States if he were to be transferred.

Agnieszka Fryszman, Rabbani’s private counsel, reiterated the sentiments of his personal representatives. She stated, “[He] did not act for ideological or hate filled reasons. He has never expressed to us any anger or intent to harm anyone. He’s even said he appreciates the prison management and thinks they are doing a good job.”

Fryszman also notes that Rabbani’s family, located in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are eager to support Rabbani with housing and employment opportunities after his transfer. The Life After Guantanamo Project has also pledged to assist Rabbani with whatever he may need to facilitate his transition.

Rabbani has said that he would prefer to be transferred to Saudi Arabia, not Pakistan, so that he can make a clean break with his past. Saudi Arabia has previously accepted 134 detainees from Gitmo, and has a robust rehabilitation program in place. Rabbani indicates complete willingness to participate in such a program if the government sees fit to arrange it.

Seventy-nine detainees remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, with 29 of them approved for transfer. Additional detainees may be cleared for transfer as the PRB process continues through this coming fall (counting Rabbani, 16 detainees are waiting for PRB decisions). Transfer agreements for cleared detainees should be reached quickly in order to facilitate President Obama’s goal of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay before the end of his time in office.

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Published on July 7, 2016

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