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May 26, 2016

Review Hearing for Another Algerian Guantanamo Detainee

This morning Gitmo detainee Sufiyan Ibu Muhammad Barhumi had his Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing. The 43-year-old has been held at Guantanamo Bay since June of 2002. 

According to Barhumi’s government profile, he illegally immigrated to the United Kingdom from Algeria in the 1990s and was radicalized at the Baker Street Mosque in London. After obtaining a falsified passport, he traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 with the intention of fighting in Chechnya. He decided to stay in Afghanistan and received training in remote control improvised explosive devices.

The U.S. government acknowledges that Barhumi “probably was not a member of al-Qa’ida or the Taliban,” but says they believe he worked with several extremist groups. He was arrested during the March 28, 2002 raid that captured Abu Zubaydah. Barhumi had been staying at Zubaydah’s safehouse, where the government believes he “probably agreed to join Zubaydah’s Martyr’s Brigade and plot further attacks against the United States.”

Over the course of his detention at Guantanamo, Barhumi has had a relatively low number of disciplinary infractions and detention facility staff consider him to be compliant. He has answered questions about the training he underwent and maintains that he had only wanted to fight in Chechnya and was “not a member of al-Qa’ida or any other extremist group.” The United States has not identified any associations between Barhumi and at-large terrorists.

His personal representatives reiterated that Barhumi only wanted to fight in Chechnya, and was apprehended as he was making his way home to Algeria to be with his mother. They said he has no ill-will towards the United States and wants to put the past behind him. He would like to return home to Algeria and go into business with his brothers. They added that his mother already has three marriage candidates picked for him so he can begin a new life and family.

Barhumi’s private counsel, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, described in great detail his experiences with Barhumi over the last decade. Kadidal explained that Barhumi helped orient new detainees upon arrival at Guantanamo, diffused tensions between guards and detainees, and always treated everyone he met with respect, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. Kadidal also noted that Barhumi wants so desperately to return home to his mother, that in 2012 he publicly offered to plead guilty to anything the government was willing to charge him with, so that he would at least have a date for when he could return home.

Kadidal pointed out that Barhumi’s Algerian citizenship should make his clearance that much easier to approve. Many members of Congress frequently cite recidivism statistics and security concerns as reasons why detainees should not be transferred out of Guantanamo. Kadidal explained that Algeria has an extremely stringent process in place for individuals transferred from Guantanamo, including mandatory preventative detention, random visits from authorities, and electronic surveillance of communications. He noted that no Algerians repatriated from Guantanamo have received a passport and that there have been no reports of recidivism among them.

Today’s PRB was the eighth held this month. There are four additional PRBs scheduled for the next two weeks. As part of the Department of Defense’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo, all eligible detainees are due to have their initial PRBs completed by this coming fall.