Obaidullah Receives Initial Review as Pace of PRBs Picks Up

This morning the Periodic Review Board (PRB) held a hearing for Obaidullah, a 36-year-old Guantanamo detainee from Afghanistan who’s been imprisoned at the U.S. base in Cuba since October 2002.

The U.S. government claims that Obaidullah “received training in explosives from the Taliban and was part of an al-Qa’ida-associated improvised explosive device (IED) cell that targeted Coalition forces in Khowst, Afghanistan.” It also claims he may have provided logistics support to al Qaeda fighters, and says he has admitted to working with other Guantanamo detainees prior to their capture. When he was captured in July 2002, U.S. Special Forces recovered “23 antitank landmines as well as a notebook containing electronic and detonator schematics involving explosives and mines” at his compound.

Obaidullah’s private counsel, Ann Richardson, responded that although her client was charged in the military commissions at one point, those charges were ultimately dismissed. She said that a number of letters from former military attorneys, investigators, and Obaidullah’s former habeas attorneys have all confirmed that Obaidullah no longer presents a threat to the United States. She emphasized how polite he has been to her throughout their seven-year attorney-client relationship, and noted that he has never once “expressed any ideological ideas about America or any other country.”

Obaidullah’s military-assigned personal representatives said that he has taken classes at Guantanamo, including English classes. He has also been one of the most compliant detainees, and serves as a translator for other detainees when they have problems with guards.

Richardson emphasized that Obaidullah was detained when he was quite young, and left behind a wife and very young daughter, of whom he is very proud. She said he would very much like to be transferred home to Afghanistan to rejoin his family, though he would be willing to be transferred to any country the United States deems appropriate.

The government’s primary concern seems to be that in the past, Obaidullah associated with some Guantanamo detainees who engaged in extremist activity after their release. The government also says he has provided little information to interrogators, and has been misleading when asked about his involvement in terrorist activities. Obaidullah insists he now only wants to return to Afghanistan to his family, finish his education, and become a shopkeeper.

Today, 80 detainees remain at Guantanamo, 26 of whom have already been cleared for release and await transfer. President Obama recently released his plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before the end of his presidency, which includes a welcome increase in the rate of these PRB hearings. Four additional hearings are scheduled over the next two weeks. The administration should maintain this rate and meet its goal of completing all initial PRBs by the fall of 2016.


Published on April 19, 2016


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