Gitmo Review Board Hears Case of Alleged Bin Laden Bodyguard In Second Hearing Of The Week
By Adelma Jakupovic
Sanad Ali Yislam Al Kazimi, a 46-year-old Yemeni national, appeared at this morning’s Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing, an interagency review process that will decide whether he will be added to the list of 36 detainees cleared for release. Al Kazimi appeared interested and engaged during his hearing, listening attentively and following along with the statements made by the government, his private counsel, and personal representatives. He has been detained at Guantanamo for nearly 12 years without charge or trial.
Al Kazimi was arrested in 2003 by UAE authorities. The U.S. government submits that he served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and as a financial facilitator for al Qaeda. He allegedly joined an al Qaeda cell in the UAE, where he was tasked with smuggling explosives to be used against U.S. or British ships stationed there. The government now acknowledges that while Al Kazimi provided logistical support for the plot, he likely did not deliver the explosives. Al Kazimi denied the allegations, claiming he was only interested in receiving money from the cell’s senior operational planner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
During his confinement at Guantanamo, Al Kazimi has been highly non-compliant. He committed repeated attacks against detention staff, refused to answer questions, and attempted to assault the interrogators. According to the government, “He provided contradictory information about his views on al Qaeda and terrorist activities to interrogators, boasting of his al Qaeda knowledge and insights while criticizing the group's ideology.” Al Kazimi has also allegedly expressed anti-U.S. and extremist sentiments.
Contrary to the government’s statements, Al Kazimi’s personal representatives described him as cooperative, open, and honest. He willingly participated in the PRB process, attended all meetings with them, and candidly answered their questions. Even previous members of Al Kazimi’s legal team sent letters to the PRB highlighting their positive experiences from working with him.
Al Kazimi has taken advantage of the educational opportunities offered at Guantanamo, taking classes in English, Computer Science, and Life Skills. He hopes to have a full-time job wherever he is transferred so that he can support himself and his family. His personal representatives believe that his solid understanding of the English language, the classes he took at the detention facility, and his previous work experience will help him to find employment if he is released.
Al Kazimi’s family has also pledged unwavering financial and emotional support. His private counsel explained that his wife and children sent letters and video clips expressing their love and dedication to him. Al Kazimi has remained close to his family throughout his detention, playing an active role in his children’s lives. Although he wants to return to his family in Yemen, he understands that this may not happen, and is willing to go to any country the United States deems acceptable. His wife and children hope to reunite with him in his new home, wherever he is resettled.
This morning’s PRB marks the second of nine hearings scheduled for this month. Eighty detainees are currently held at Guantanamo, 36 of whom are eligible to appear before the board. According to PRB staff, the accelerated rate of hearings will be maintained as much as possible so that all initial reviews will be completed by the fall of 2016.