Guantánamo

Another Yemeni ‘forever prisoner’ at Guantánamo is cleared for release

Miami Herald staff and wire services

Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi is shown here posing for an International Red Cross photographer in a photo obtained from the Yemeni Human Rights group Hood.
Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi is shown here posing for an International Red Cross photographer in a photo obtained from the Yemeni Human Rights group Hood.

A Guantánamo Bay prisoner who was for a time suspected of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden has been cleared for release from the U.S. base in Cuba.

Yemeni prisoner Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi, 35, arrived at Guantánamo the day Camp X-Ray opened, Jan. 11, 2002, among the first 20 captives to get there, but was never charged.

Now the government’s Periodic Review Board has decided he can be released, if security conditions permit. The board earlier ruled in March that it was too risky to release him because of unrest in his hometown in Yemen and the fact that he has a brother-in-law with ties to extremists.

But a board decision released Tuesday says he can be released if certain safeguards are imposed. It’s not clear whether he will be returned to Yemen or resettled elsewhere.

Attorney David Remes said Rahabi was “overjoyed” by the decision.

In January, Rahabi told the board that he through his attorney that he had quit his hunger strike, become a model prisoner, planned to work at a “milk and honey farm” or work for his father’s tailoring business. He wanted to return to his family.

In its latest, Dec. 5 decision, issued after the U.S. sent six Guantánamo captives to Uruguay for resettlement, the parole board said he might return to Yemen “if the security situation improves.”

Or he could go elsewhere if “an appropriate third-country resettlement option becomes available,” the board said, urging that he start his new life in a new country with his wife and 13- or 14-year-old daughter, Ayesha.

His new status means that, of the 136 captives currently at Guantánamo, 68 of them are approved for transfer and 35 are categorized as indefinite detainees under the Law of War, or so-called “forever prisoners.”

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report. She tweets @carolrosenberg

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