The First Guantanamo Periodic Review Board of 2016

This morning the Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB) held its first hearing of 2016. They examined the case of Ahmid Al Razak (AKA Haji Hamidullah), an Afghani citizen held at Gitmo since November 2003.

His official detainee profile says that while Hamidullah has been “highly compliant” with the guard staff, and “has committed far fewer infractions than most other detainees,” approving him for transfer would pose a threat to national security. It states that he was a militant who “probably ordered and conducted attacks against Afghan and Coalition personnel during Operation Enduring Freedom.” It concludes that given his family’s history of anti-Coalition and criminal activities, along with extremist activity in his village, he would likely be drawn back into the fight if he were returned to his hometown.

Hamidullah has consistently denied any connection with extremist groups and involvement in actions against U.S. interests. According to his private counsel, Hamidullah was actually imprisoned by the Taliban in the late 1990’s and escaped.

During the hearing, Hamidullah’s personal representatives reiterated that he has repeatedly stated that “he does not support extremist groups” and that he believes Islam is a peaceful religion. They noted that he has spent the majority of his time in detention teaching himself to read, and has memorized the entire Koran.

Prior to his capture and detention, Hamidullah made a living renovating houses and fixing cars. He has a strong, close-knit family. Hamidullah even said he would be happy to remain at Guantanamo as long as it guaranteed that his family would be well cared for and protected. He maintains contact with members of his family and tribe, and many of them have offered to sell their land to help him transition back into society.

Acknowledging the government’s concern about the risk of reengagement, his personal counsel requested that he be released to a Muslim country other than Afghanistan or Pakistan, where he would have little to no connection with people he knew previously. He concluded that Hamidullah is an elderly man who wants nothing more than to peacefully live out the remainder of his life with his two wives.

The board declined to ask any additional questions of Hamidullah or his representatives. A final determination on his status is expected within the next two months.

As he enters his last year in office, President Obama is facing mounting pressure to make good on his promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Four additional PRBs are scheduled for 2016, with many more expected. Four cleared detainees have already been transferred out of the prison in the first two weeks of the new year. Reports indicate that the detainee population will soon dip below 100 for the first time since the prison opened in January 2002.

For more information on how the Obama Administration can close Gitmo before the end of the president’s term, see our blueprint.

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Published on January 12, 2016

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