ARLINGTON, Virginia — A Guantanamo detainee portrayed by his US jailers as almost certainly a former al-Qaeda member pleaded through his lawyer Tuesday to be freed from the Navy-run prison in Cuba, where he has been held without charges for 12 years.
Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, 34, only wants to rejoin his family, attend college, teach and start an agricultural business, attorney David Remes told a review panel whose proceedings, for the first time, were partly open to the public.
Remes said al-Rahabi is a model prisoner with a family, including a wife and 13-year-old daughter, who “will keep him firmly anchored at home.”
The US government countered that al-Rahabi reportedly was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and fought on the front lines. Before his arrest, he “associated closely with extremists who are now active in Yemen,” according to a profile document that was read aloud during the public portion of the hearing.
Those extremists include a brother-in-law who is a “prominent extremist” in their hometown of Ibb, according to the profile.
“The marginal security environment in lbb probably would give (al-Rahabi) ample opportunities” to rejoin al-Qaeda, the government document concluded.
The Periodic Review Board, a panel composed of representatives from six US government agencies, now must reach a consensus on whether al-Rahabi poses any lingering threat to the United States, a process that could take weeks.
The review board is a component of US President Barack Obama’s effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which opened in January 2002 to hold detainees suspected of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, and now holds 155 prisoners.
The Obama administration has balked at sending Yemenis to their home country because of instability there. More than 50 men from Yemen being held at Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer but are waiting for the US to decide that conditions are safe enough to return them, or find a third country willing to accept them
The public portion of Tuesday’s hearing lasted just 19 minutes, with al-Rahabi, his lawyer and his two military “personal representatives” linked by video from Cuba. Eight journalists and four human rights advocates watched the video feed from a conference room in the suburban Washington office building that houses the board’s offices.
The board then adjourned into a closed session to protect classified information.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.