Libyan Gitmo Detainee Gets PRB Review as List Shrinks

By Amy Morello

This morning the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) convened to discuss the case of Isma’il Ali Faraj al-Bakush, a 48-year-old Libyan national who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since August 2002.

According to the U.S. government, al-Bakush “was a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) explosives expert who trained al-Qa’ida members and probably associated with and provided operational support to key al-Qa’ida figures.” It claims he fled to Pakistan in early 2002 where he “probably helped al-Qa’ida and LIFG members plan external operations and communicated regularly with prominent al-Qa’ida figures,” possibly including Abu Zubaydah and senior al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libi. Al-Bakush was arrested by Pakistani authorities in April 2002.

For his part, al-Bakush claims that he was a low-level LIFG fighter and has consistently denied a close association with al Qaeda or any expertise with explosives.

Al-Bakush’s government profile notes that he has been “compliant but uncooperative.” He attended interviews with interrogators regularly until 2015, but provided “little information of value.” Al-Bakush has vocalized frustration with the civil war in Libya, blaming Egypt and also asserting that General Hafitar “is a new dictator, like Qadhafi.” However, while al-Bakush has not renounced extremism, he has “told interrogators that he is not interested in fighting again.”

Al-Bakush’s personal representative told a very different story, emphasizing that “he has learned to be more open-minded, tolerant, and accepting to others” during his detention at Gitmo. He explained, “His demeanor is one of an individual that has learned from his mistakes and actions of the past.” He talked about the classes al-Bakush has taken, his desire to work in the restaurant industry and get married and start a family. He would prefer to be transferred to an Arabic speaking country, but is willing to be sent to any country “that provides him opportunities for a successful future.” Al-Bakush is also willing to participate in a rehabilitation program.

Seventy-six detainees remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, with 29 of them approved for transfer. There are 13 detainees waiting on PRB decisions and 24 detainees eligible for review. The Obama Administration said it intends to review all eligible detainees by Fall 2016. Transfer agreements for cleared detainees should be reached quickly in order to facilitate President Obama’s goal of closing Gitmo before the end of his term in office.


Published on July 14, 2016


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