Parole board says Saudi who went to U.S. flight school too dangerous to release from Guantánamo

The insignia of the Periodic Review Board bureaucracy at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo.
The insignia of the Periodic Review Board bureaucracy at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo.

A review board has decided that a Saudi prisoner who attended flight school in the U.S. and was trained to make explosives by al-Qaida should continue to be held without charge.

The Periodic Review Board said in a decision released Friday that Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi, 41, should remain in custody at the U.S. base in Cuba because he remains a security threat. He spoke with candor at his June 23 board hearing, the decision said.

But, consistent with his approach to his now abandoned war court case in Cuba and withdrawn unlawful detention petition in federal court, he shunned cooperation with Americans assigned to help him. He offered the federal parole-style board no written argument for release.

The board cited his past involvement in terrorism and his “hostile behavior while in detention, including organizing confrontations between other detainees and the guard force.”

A short statement added that “the board considered the detainee’s prior statements expressing support for attacking the United States, and the detainee’s refusal to discuss his plans for the future.”

Sharbi attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, and later went to a U.S. flight school, where he “associated with” two of the 9/11 hijackers, according to a profile released by the Pentagon before his review board hearing.

Authorities said he later received training by al-Qaida in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices and was captured in a raid on a terrorist safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan in 2002.

During the Bush administration he was charged with providing material support for terrorism at a military commission. But higher U.S. courts ruled that material support at the time of the alleged offenses did not constitute a war crime that could be prosecuted at Guantánamo. The case was withdrawn. He cannot be tried in civilian court because Congress has prohibited the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the U.S. for any reason, including prosecution.

Sharbi is among 76 prisoners held at Guantánamo, including 32 who have been approved for release and are awaiting transfer.