A federal parole board has cleared another Guantánamo “forever prisoner” — a 37-year-old Yemeni who the U.S. profiled as having met Osama bin Laden — for release from the detention center in southeast Cuba.
“I am against violence. I don’t have the least intention to spend any more time with other detainees,” Mashoor al Sabri told the board last month. Although a Yemeni citizen, he said he was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and would like to return to family there, in Mecca, notably an ailing mother with high blood pressure.
The three-paragraph decision, obtained Friday by the Miami Herald, said the board is recommending release “subject to appropriate security assurances” in consideration of Sabri’s “low level of training, renunciation of extremist ideology, and lack of a leadership position in al-Qaida or the Taliban.”
The Sabri release decision means that of Guantánamo’s 122 captives, 57 are now approved for transfer. The vast majority of them, as is Sabri, are Yemenis who are ineligible for repatriation because of the Arabian Gulf nation’s spiraling violence and powerful al-Qaida franchise. Ten other prisoners are in war-crimes proceedings, and another 55 are either candidates for war crimes trials or forever prisoners.
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The Periodic Review Board has representatives from six U.S. national security agencies, and functions much like a parole board with one exception: None of those seeking release has been convicted of a crime.
In February 2011, a federal court found Sabri’s indefinite detention lawful. A year earlier the Obama administration declared him a Law of War detainee, effectively a “forever prisoner,” meaning he could never be charged with a crime but was deemed too dangerous to release.
The board recommending release noted that in his time at Guantánamo, Sabri had “generally compliant behavior” and had taken part in prison programs, by his account, nutrition, computer and health classes. He briefly made his plea for freedom March 3 in English, saying he had learned it at the prison.
Sabri’s U.S. intelligence profile described him as a largely cooperative captive who was “probably” resentful over “the length of his detention at Guantánamo.” It noted, however, that no family members in either Saudi Arabia or Yemeni “are involved in terrorist activity.”
It added that in the late 1990s he knew one of the men who attacked the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, as a suicide bomber, but apparently didn’t know what the man was planning. It also said, apparently by his own admission, he traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 “probably to support the Taliban,” and became “acquainted with” bin Laden.
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