Guantánamo

Another Guantánamo ‘forever prisoner’ makes appeal for release

Zahir Hamdoun poses for the International Red Cross in this photo for family approved for release by the prison staff. Courtesy Center for Constitutional Rights
Zahir Hamdoun poses for the International Red Cross in this photo for family approved for release by the prison staff. Courtesy Center for Constitutional Rights

A lawyer for a New York civil liberties group is pledging her firm’s support — from lining up mental health care to financial aid — for a long-held Yemeni captive seeking release from the national security parole board.

Zahir Hamdoun, 36, and his family realize that return to his civil war stricken Arabian Sea nation from 13 years at Guantánamo is not possible, his advocates wrote the Obama administration’s Periodic Review Board ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.

So if allowed to be released to another country, attorney Pardiss Kebriaei said her Center for Constitutional Rights is prepared to offer years of long-term support ranging from “financial assistance and referrals for needs large and small, ranging from live-in interpreters and mental health care, to laptops and language CDs.”

The hearing was being held by video feed linking the Yemeni to the parole board in the Washington, D.C., area. No reporters at Guantánamo could see it.

Hamdoun, at Guantánamo since May 2002, is held as a Law of War detainee, known as a “forever prisoner. A 2010 federal task force concluded he was too dangerous for release but there was insufficient evidence against him to try him for any crime.

He was picked up by Pakistani intelligence agents in Karachi in February 2002, and handed over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, at that time more traditionally considered the battlefield, for interrogation and eventual transfer to this remote outpost.

A U.S. intelligence profile released this week said he went to Afghanistan in 1999 and trained in an al-Qaida camp. It said he fled Afghanistan at the time of the U.S. invasion, probably after he “fought under the command of an al-Qaida leader during Operation Enduring Freedom and possibly commanded foreign fighters.”

The captive ‘dislikes the U.S., an emotion that probably is motivated more by frustration over his continuing detention than by a commitment to global jihad.’

U.S. intelligence profile

It said Hamdoun “dislikes the U.S., an emotion that probably is motivated more by frustration over his continuing detention than by a commitment to global jihad, and he probably sympathizes with but is not deeply devoted to extremist causes.”

An unnamed female U.S. military officer assigned to help him make his case for release wrote the board that Hamdoun “shook my hand enthusiastically” at their first meeting.

He “has expressed regret for the decisions he has made in the past,” she wrote, adding that “he has been exposed to a variety of cultures and religions while here and understands the importance of respecting everyone regardless of beliefs. He knows it is important to treat everyone as you wish to be treated.”

He ‘has expressed regret for the decisions he has made in the past.’

Unnamed U.S. military officer

The hearing was being held Tuesday with the Yemeni and his advocates at Guantánamo speaking to the board meeting in the Washington, D.C., area by video feed.

Reporters at this base this week to observe a war crimes trial were not given access to the open portion of the hearing — a reading of an already released Sept. 25 intelligence profile of him and his advocates’ arguments for release.

The Pentagon only permits viewing via video feed to a Department of Defense controlled site near Washington. Tuesday, for the first time, the site was to be inside a conference room at the Pentagon itself.

Guantánamo prison currently holds 107 captives, 48 approved for release to security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Of the rest, 27 are “forever prisoners,” including Hamdoun, down from an all-time high of 48 in 2010 through parole board decisions conducted after two indefinite detainees died at the prison.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

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