Guantánamo

Amputee Libyan ‘forever prisoner’ cleared for release

Omar Mohammed Khalif in a U.S. military photo taken from his 2008 Guantánamo prison profile provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy Wikileaks group.
Omar Mohammed Khalif in a U.S. military photo taken from his 2008 Guantánamo prison profile provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy Wikileaks group.

​A federal parole board has cleared a 40-something Libyan “forever prisoner” for release from Guantánamo, declaring the former militant who mediates disputes between captives and guards now too sick to be a threat.

Omar Mohammed Khalif, born in 1972, is one of four Libyans at Guantánamo. A U.S. assessment said he once feared returning home because of his past association with the now disbanded Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and al-Qaida, stretching back to Osama bin Laden’s time in Sudan.

But, once Moammar Qadhafi died in 2011, Khalif no longer feared persecution in his homeland.

The decision raised to 53 the number of cleared captives among Guantánamo’s 116 prisoners

The board, in a four-paragraph decision dated Aug. 20 but recently posted on a Pentagon website, called Khalif a cooperative captive with a “significantly compromised health condition” and history of “mediating concerns raised between other detainees and guard staff.”

“While the Board acknowledges the detainee's past terrorist-related activities and connections, it found that the risk the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated,” the panel said.

The decision raised to 53 the number of cleared captives among the 116 detainees at Guantánamo. Of the rest, 10 are in military commission proceedings and the rest are either candidates for trial or classified as indefinite detainees in the war-on-terror, “forever prisoners.”

Khalif has no right leg below the knee from a 1998 landmine accident in Afghanistan and a left leg held together by metal pins from a 1995 construction work site accident in Sudan, according to his attorney, Ramzi Kassem. Khalif is blind in his left eye and has glaucoma in his right eye, as well as shrapnel in his left side.

He also apparently suffers a psychiatric condition.

The Periodic Review Board made up of national security delegates recommended his transfer to an Arabic-speaking country “with the ability to provide structured, inpatient medical care to adequately address his physical and mental health needs.”

Kassem said he was unaware of any “severe mental health issues. He is actually quite cogent and articulate and has played a recognized mediating role between prisoners and the guard force over the years.”

He also said Khalif’s region in Libya is “the most stable in the country. But he is open to any suitable resettlement and his family will do its best to support him wherever he ends up.”

Pakistani security forces captured Khalif in Faisalabad in March 2002 during a raid that rolled up dozens of suspected in militants in two suspected al-Qaida safe houses, notably the Palestinian Zayn Abdeen Mohammed al Hussayn, known as “Abu Zubaydah.” He was taken to the U.S. Navy base in Cuba five months later.

Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, said he represents Khalif with his students in the Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic.

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