‘Forever prisoner’ boycotts Guantánamo hearing over Army genital searches

A prisoner at the U.S Navy base at Guantánamo Bay is not attending his parole board hearing because he does not want to submit to what he considers an overly intrusive body search, according to a statement released Friday from a military official appointed to represent him.

Mohammed al-Shimrani, who has been held at the U.S. base in Cuba without charge for 12 years, is scheduled to appear Monday before the Periodic Review Board, which is to consider whether he can be transferred back to his native Saudi Arabia.

The review process began last year as part of a renewed effort by President Barack Obama to close the prison and the board is expected to evaluate about half of the 154 men still held there.

Shimrani, 39, says he will not attend because the body search, in which guards touch the area near his genitals, is “humiliating and degrading,” according to the statement.

The personal representative, a military officer appointed to represent him at the review board, said the prisoner has refused meetings at the prison and turned down dental appointments because of the searches.

Lawyers for prisoners have said in the past that prisoners at Guantánamo have refused meetings and phone calls because of the searches, which are required each time they move from one section of the prison to another. Complaints about the practice emerged in the context of the prison’s long-running hunger strike.

In July 2013, in response to a legal challenge, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth found that the searches were blocking prisoners’ access to counsel and ordered the military to halt the practice. The government appealed to a higher court, arguing that the searches, imposed after a detainee suicide, are necessary to prevent the smuggling of contraband within Guantánamo. The court authorized the searches while a ruling is pending.

The Periodic Review Board can go on without the participation of Shimrani. He has been held at Guantánamo since Jan. 16, 2002 as a suspected recruiter for al-Qaida and the Taliban who joined the jihad in Afghanistan.

A U.S. intelligence profile of the prisoner, created recently for the board, calls Shimarani a “problematic and unpredictable detainee” who has “used his authority as a religious leader to encourage other detainees not to cooperate with detention staff.”

“He repeatedly told interrogators and other detainees he would reengage in extremism if he were released from Guantánamo,” it also said.

Miami Herald staff writer Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.