Guantánamo

Guantánamo parole board clears another ‘forever prisoner’

At left, Saeed Serem Jarabh, held as Detainee 235, cleared for transfer from Guantánamo. At right, “forever prisoner” Khalid Ahmed Qasim, held as Detainee 242, whose parole board decided this month had too extremist and and anti-American views for release. The photos are from the captives 2008 Guantánamo risk assessments provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks organization.
At left, Saeed Serem Jarabh, held as Detainee 235, cleared for transfer from Guantánamo. At right, “forever prisoner” Khalid Ahmed Qasim, held as Detainee 242, whose parole board decided this month had too extremist and and anti-American views for release. The photos are from the captives 2008 Guantánamo risk assessments provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks organization.

A federal parole board has cleared another Guantánamo “forever prisoner” — a 36-year-old Yemeni former foot soldier — for release from the detention center in southeast Cuba.

When Saeed Sarem Jarabh got to Guantánamo in February 2002 he was profiled as a possible bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. But a recommendation for transfer to a third country released by the parole board Wednesday called him a “low-level fighter” who “lacked a leadership position in al-Qaida or the Taliban.”

Board members from the Departments of Defense, Justice, State, Homeland Security as well as the National Intelligence directorate cited as a reason for his release a “lack of indications that the detainee harbors anti-American sentiments, extremist beliefs or intention to reengage” after 13 years in U.S. military custody.

The Yemeni went before the parole board in January, via video link between the prison and offices near the Pentagon, and asked to be reunited in Yemen with his wife, two daughters and elderly parents. He said, through a representative, that alternatively he was “completely open to transfer to other nations where his family could join him,” for example, Saudi Arabia.

The representative, a U.S. military officer whose identity is shielded from the public, told the board that the Yemeni has studied both English and Spanish at Guantánamo.

A federal Task Force, set up in President Barack Obama’s first year in office, originally classified Jarabh as an indefinite detainee, a “forever prisoner” — meaning he couldn’t be tried for any alleged crime but was considered too dangerous for release.

The decision, reclassifying Jarabh as eligible for release, means that of the 122 captives at Guantánamo, 56 are now approved for transfer, 10 are in war crimes proceedings and another 56 are either candidates for war crimes trials or forever prisoners.

A total of 12 Guantánamo detainees have gone before the Obama-era parole board, and eight have been reclassified as approved for release.

Separately, the parole board declined to approve the release of “forever prisoner” Khalid Qasim, 38, also a Yemeni whose Guantánamo profile describes him as captured in the same group of Arabs as Jarabh — having fled the Tora Bora mountains to Pakistan.

The board cited Qasim’s behavior at the prison and his “extremist and anti-American sentiments” at Guantánamo, where he has been held since May 2002, as reasons to retain him.

A June intelligence profile described Qasim as having family back in Aden, Yemen, with ties to the al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula movement. It also described him as a participant “in the recent widespread detainee hunger strike,” who repeatedly splashed his guards with his bodily fluids, and threatened to kill them.

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