Alleged al Qaeda Facilitator Gets His PRB Hearing
By Adelma Jakupovic
Yesterday Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj, a 41-year-old Yemeni national, had his Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing—the interagency review process to determine whether Guantanamo detainees represent a continuing threat to the security of the United States. Al Hajj has been detained for over a decade without charge or trial, but he chose not to participate at his hearing.
The government submits that Al Hajji traveled to Europe, East Africa, and Southeast Asia to participate in jihadist causes prior to returning to Yemen in 1999. While in Yemen, he allegedly helped fighters travel to Afghanistan, many of whom eventually became Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards. According to the government’s account, he also funneled Saudi donations to al Qaeda and distributed money to members of the terrorist group and other fighters. Al Hajj was seized in a house raid in Pakistan in 2002, where he purportedly ran a guesthouse to help Arab fighters escape the region.
The government says that Al Hajj had ties to senior members of al Qaeda, such as Osama bin Laden and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, and associated with al Qaeda plotters and operatives, including members of the USS Cole bombing plot and 9/11 hijackers.
It also claims that Al Hajj has been “somewhat compliant” during his detention. Although he shared valuable information on his past activities and associations, he also allegedly assaulted guards when he believed his grievances were not met, and used his leadership abilities to “influence other detainees and manipulate camp dynamics.”
While the government alleged that Al Hajj expressed an interest in returning to terrorist activities after release from Guantanamo, his personal representatives stated he does not support terrorist organizations, including acts committed by the Islamic State. They reiterated that he rejects involvement in war and aggression, believing them to be “against the will of God.”
Al Hajj spent time preparing himself for the future by taking classes offered at Guantanamo, such as Adobe Photoshop and English. He hopes to be transferred to a stable and peaceful country that will give him the opportunity to start a new life. His family will provide him with assistance to ease his transition.
In his last year in office, President Obama faces mounting pressure to deliver on his campaign promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo. His administration has said it intend to speed up the PRB process, completing all initial hearings by Fall 2016.
The PRBs have shown signs of progress with four additional PRBs announced today, totaling nine hearings for the coming months. This is promising news for the 38 detainees who are eligible to appear before the board.
For more information on how President Obama can close Guantanamo before the end of his term, see our “How to Close Guantanamo” blueprint.