Moroccan Gitmo Detainee Receives Initial Review
This morning the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) held a hearing for detainee Abdul Latif Nasir. Nasir is a 56-year-old Moroccan national who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since May 2002.
According to the U.S. government, Nasir was a member of the “non-violent but illegal” group Jamaat al Adl Wa al-Ihassan in the 1980s. He was then recruited to fight in Chechnya by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in 1996, but instead spent time in Afghanistan in 1997 and received weapons training at al Qaeda camps. The United States also claims that Nasir acted in a leadership role at Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001 and fought against U.S. forces.
Since his arrival at Guantanamo, Nasir has been a mostly compliant detainee. He was initially cooperative with interrogators, but has since retracted many of his previous statements about his involvement with extremist activities. His detainee profile notes that he has not expressed extremist views against U.S. citizens, but is likely resentful towards those he sees as responsible for his prolonged detention. Given his close family ties, Nasir would prefer to be resettled in Morocco, where a number of family members have said they would financially support his reintegration.
Nasir’s personal representative detailed how he has pursued a number of different classes during his time at Guantanamo, and has even created a 2,000 word hand-written English/Arabic dictionary. He reiterated the government’s statement that Nasir would prefer to be repatriated to Morocco in order to be with his family and begin a new life.
Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, Nasir’s private counsel, described him as an “introspective, intelligent, and kind-hearted man” who loves to learn. She pointed out that when he arrived at Guantanamo, he knew no English and his culture would have prevented him from meeting with a female attorney. They now speak at length together in English without the use of a translator, and he has been pleasant and respectful.
Sullivan-Bennis went into detail about what Nasir’s life would look like if he were to be released to Morocco. She explained that while he would ultimately like a career in computer science, he understands that it will take some time for him to develop the necessary skills. In the meantime, his brother has offered him employment at his water treatment company. Nasir would live in his family’s five-bedroom home in Casablanca.
In her statement, Sullivan-Bennis also stated that Nasir was sold into American custody for a bounty in 2002. There are reports that a large number of former and current Guantanamo detainees were captured by local forces and sold to American forces, without necessarily confirming their identities or backgrounds.
If Nasir is cleared by the PRB, there is a possibility he could be returned home. Morocco has accepted 13 former Guantanamo detainees. Sullivan-Bennis emphasized that her organization, Reprieve, has a program called “Life After Guantanamo,” which offers additional assistance to their clients after release to ensure their successful reintegration. She noted that they have specific experience working with groups in Morocco.
Of the 80 detainees that remain at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, 30 of them have been cleared for release by the PRBs. The Obama Administration hopes to have all initial PRBs completed by this coming fall in order to facilitate the president’s goal of closing the detention facility before he leaves office.