Last Scheduled Guantanamo PRB Hearing

By Laura Murchie

Yesterday Guantanamo detainee Omar Muhammad Ali al-Rammah, a Yemeni national who goes by the nickname Zakaria, appeared before the Periodic Review Board (PRB) for the second time to give his plea for release.

The panel previously determined that Zakaria should remain in detention because it couldn’t assess his intentions and mindset. The board found there was still concern about his past support for extremist activity against the United States and expressed concern about his lack of a developed plan for the future. A subsequent file review determined that new information about Zakaria warranted an additional full review to determine whether he could be cleared for transfer.

In today’s hearing the U.S. government alleged that Zakaria was probably a low-level mujahidin fighter in Bosnia before becoming a facilitator with an extremist network affiliated with al Qaeda. He purportedly trained at al Qaeda associated camps in Afghanistan before traveling to Georgia to support the Chechen jihad. The government also stated that Zakaria probably retains an extremist mindset.

Zakaria’s personal representative described him as a moderate Muslim who denounces the violence and death caused by radicals. According to the representative, Zakaria is considered to be one of the more well-behaved detainees, with few behavioral problems, noting that staff describe him as “calm and quiet.”

The representative noted that although Zakaria has little formal education, he has taken math and English classes during his detention at Guantanamo. Upon release, Zakaria plans to continue studying business and enroll in a university with the goal of gaining the skills necessary to open up a café and build a successful career that will allow him to support himself.

His representative also said that Zakaria has been able to get in touch with his family in Saudi Arabia, who has offered to support him both financially and emotionally during his transition. His family has set up a plan to have someone by Zakaria’s side, regardless of where he is transferred. Upon his release, Zakaria wants to take care of his mother and hopefully start a family. He has a strong desire to make up for his past actions.

President Obama created the PRB in 2011 and Congress codified the review process in Section 1023 of the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2012. The process requires all national security and intelligence agencies to unanimously agree that a detainee can be cleared for transfer. Of the 64 detainees who have received hearings and final determinations, 38 have been cleared for transfer and 26 have been recommended for continued detention.

To date, yesterday’s hearing is the only PRB hearing that has been scheduled for 2017. Human Rights First urges the Trump Administration to continue the Periodic Review Boards to evaluate whether detainees can and should be transferred.


Published on February 10, 2017


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