Parole board clears another Yemeni ‘forever prisoner’ to leave Guantánamo

 

crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

An Obama administration parole board has approved for release another Guantánamo “forever prisoner” — a man once profiled by U.S. military intelligence as an Osama bin Laden bodyguard — and recommended he be reunited with family in Yemen rather than resettled elsewhere

Ali Ahmad al Razihi, 34, a bachelor, went before a parole board without an attorney on March 20. Razihi has modest plans for a food service business modeled after Guantánamo’s mess hall-to-cellblock catering system, according to a statement prepared by a U.S. military officer assigned to help Razihi in the parole board proceedings. He did not elaborate

Also, according to the officer, “luckily enough,” the captive’s father already has already lined up a bride for him on return to Yemen.

Razihi’s new designation as eligible for release means that of Guantánamo prison’s 154 captives, 44 are now considered indefinite detainees and 77 could leave once the State Department negotiates transfer deals. The rest include three convicted war criminals and other captives either awaiting trial or considered possible tribunal candidates.

The brief order, removing the Yemeni’s designation as an indefinite detainee, credited Razihi’s “largely peaceful, nonviolent approach to detention,” and willingness to take part in a rehabilitation program once “the security situation improves” in Yemen, home to one of al-Qaida’s most virulent franchises.

The board also specifically urged return to Yemen, given Razihi’s desire to be reunited with the family he left more than a decade ago for Afghanistan.

Razihi was at one point suspected of being a part of Osama bin Laden’s security detail, according to his leaked 2008 prisoner profile. He was brought to the crude prison camp of chain-link-fence cages called Camp X-Ray the day it opened, Jan. 11, 2002.

A recent risk assessment never resolved the bodyguard issue. It said Razihi “possibly served as a bodyguard” but in U.S. custody had consistently “expressed nonextremist aspiration for his life after transfer. We lack sufficient information to assess whether his stated intentions are genuine.”

Delegates from six federal agencies weighed in on the decision, the board’s third so far after hearing five case. They represented the Director of National Intelligence, departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State as well as the Pentagon and, separately, the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In earlier decisions, the board approved another suspected bodyguard, Mahmud Mujahid, for release and retained the forever prisoner designation of another, Abdel-Malek al Rahabi.

The Pentagon gave Razihi a veto of public disclosure of what he told the board, according to a parole board website posting, and the Yemeni captive exercised it.

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