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June 29, 2016

50th Detainee to Receive Periodic Review Board Hearing

By Molly Wooldridge

Yesterday the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board convened to hear the case of Musab Umar Ali Al-Mudwani, a thirty-six year-old Yemeni national who has been detained at Guantanamo since October 2002. He is the 50th detainee the PRB has reviewed since it began hearings in 2013.

Al-Mudwani is known as one of the “Karachi Six,” a label given to the six Yemenis captured during a raid on an al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The “Karachi Six” were believed to be part of an al Qaeda operational cell plotting a future attack. The United States now concedes that these detainees were probably among a larger group of low-level Yemini fighters. Al-Mudwani was likely at the safe house awaiting a chance to return to Yemen. 

The U.S. government describes Al-Mudwani as a low-level Yemeni militant who has been highly compliant during his detention at Guantanamo. Al-Mudwani has provided information about his activities and al Qaeda operatives and leaders. 

Al-Mudwani’s personal representative described how he was recruited at a young age to move to Afghanistan and support al Qaeda’s efforts. Al-Mudwani was told that the trip would be a “tremendous charity opportunity filled with adventure,” but by the time he discovered the realities of al Qaeda, it was too difficult for him to return to Yemen.  Al-Mudwani’s personal representative asserts that he has denounced extremism and has not expressed any anti-American sentiment. The United States does not contend this issue.

Al-Mudwani was also represented by private counsel at today's Periodic Review Board hearing.  His private counsel told a similar narrative of a “shy, gullible youth” who was persuaded to travel to Afghanistan. She also emphasized Al-Mudwani’s character, particularly his “candor, generosity, and sense of humor.” She quoted a letter that Al-Mudwani wrote thanking her for her support and compassion during his case. She also noted that Al-Mudwani has taken advantage of job training opportunities while imprisoned, such as studying accounting, which will help him find employment after his release.

If cleared for transfer, Al-Mudwani has expressed a preference to be transferred back to his home country of Yemen. However, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) bars the release of cleared detainees to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen, and the draft NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 in both the House and Senate uphold the ban. Despite the fact that Al-Mudwani has four siblings in Yemen who are enthusiastic about supporting him upon his release, it is highly unlikely that he will be repatriated to Yemen if he is cleared for transfer.

There are 14 detainees left at Guantanamo who have not been given an initial PRB hearing – 11 of them have yet to receive a hearing date. The Obama Administration has announced that it intends to finish all initial hearings by this fall. Human Rights First supports the administration’s efforts to review eligible detainees and securely transfer those who have been determined to no longer pose a threat to the security of the United States.