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Home / Blog / Former Russian Ballet Dancer Imprisoned at Gitmo Since 2002 Receives Review Board Hearing
June 21, 2016

Former Russian Ballet Dancer Imprisoned at Gitmo Since 2002 Receives Review Board Hearing

The Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) convened this morning to consider the case of Ravil Mingazov, a 48-year-old ethnic Tatar from Russia. Mingazov has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since October 2002.

The U.S. government alleges that Mingazov served in the Russian military from 1989-2000, but left after becoming concerned with how the Russian government treated Muslims. He then joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2000. After the IMU was forced to leave Russia he joined the Tatar Jama’at group in Afghanistan in 2001.

The U.S. government believes he received training in making explosives and chemical grenades while in Afghanistan, but due to the fact that he only speaks Russian, he likely never held a position of authority.

According to his detainee profile, Mingazov admits that he fought with the Taliban, but maintains it was never against Americans. He was arrested at a safe house associated with Abu Zubaydah. During his detention, he has provided very few details about his time in Afghanistan or the activities that led to his arrest.

If cleared for release, Mingazov has requested that he not be repatriated to Russia. He claims that his treatment at Guantanamo is better than what he received in his home country, and he is afraid of being rearrested by Russian authorities. In the event that he is returned to Russia and not arrested, he will likely seek to leave the country as soon as possible, as he “maintains a strong disdain for the Russian government.”

Mingazov’s personal representative explained that while in the Russian military, Mingazov never received any combat training and was part of the military ballet troupe and managed food preparation for a base. He went on to say that Mingazov left Russia so that his family could freely practice their religion and that Mingazov “greatly admires the religious freedom that America offers.”

In his statement, Mingazov’s personal counsel Gary Thompson focused primarily on his personal relationship with Mingazov, emphasizing that he is a kind and peaceful man and would not harm anyone if released. Thompson also noted that Mingazov’s family—mother, son and ex-wife—now reside in Nottingham, England as asylum seekers. They are eager to welcome him and help him transition.

Previously, England has received 15 former Guantanamo detainees. The most recent transfer was Shaker Aamer in October 2015. As Thompson noted, transferring Mingazov to the United Kingdom would “provide the highest levels of security assurances.”

The rate of PRBs has increased substantially in recent months, following the issuance of the president’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. There have been six hearings so far in June, with another three scheduled before the end of the month. There are currently no hearings scheduled after June, even though 13 detainees have never had a hearing and 11 are eligible for a second hearing. If the administration intends to meet its goal of completing all initial hearings by fall 2016, they should schedule them as soon as possible.