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August 02, 2016

High Value Gitmo Detainee Receives Parole Review

By Amy Morello

This morning the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) convened to consider the case of Guleed Hassan Ahmed, a 42-year-old Somali citizen who is one of the 15 remaining “high-value detainees” imprisoned at Guantanamo.

In June, Ahmed (also known as Guleed Hassan Dourad) testified before the Guantanamo Bay military commission during pre-trial hearings in the case against accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamad and his four co-accused. Ahmed took the witness stand to back up claims by 9/11 defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh of sounds and vibrations emanating from his cell at night, preventing him from sleeping. Ahmed said, “We have mental torture in the Camp 7,” where Ahmed and the remaining “high-value detainees” are held.

Ahmed has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2006. According to his Joint Task Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) assessment, Ahmed was captured in March 2004 and handed over to U.S. custody “on an unknown date.” He has never been charged with a crime or provided a lawyer.

According to the U.S. government, Ahmed was a fighter in “the radical Muslim group Al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI),” who “provided training to AIAI members,” and later “served as a key member of al-Qa’ida in East Africa’s (AQEA) network in Somalia.” The government claims he “provided logistical and operational support to AQEA leaders,” including possibly “casing Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, the target of an AQEA plot.”

Ahmed’s government profile notes that he has been “generally compliant with guard staff” and initially provided “a great deal of information about his support to AQEA,” even “admitting to his al-Qa’ida associations.” However, while Ahmed has “expressed hatred toward the West and support for violent extremism,” during his detention at Gitmo, he has told interrogators that “the only jihad he supports is the reginal conflict in East Africa.”

For his part, Ahmed claims that he “harbors no enduring ill will to the U.S.” and “wants nothing to do with extremism anymore.” Ahmed’s personal representatives affirmed as much, emphasizing that “from the start,” Ahmed “has been cooperative and enthusiastic about his PRB,” and “would like the chance to leave detention at GTMO” so he can “start a new simple, and peaceful life.” They talked about how Ahmed tried to participate in any class or program offered during his detainment, his past experience in computer engineering and small business, which “could be useful in setting up a new life,” and desire to reunite with his wife and four children who live in Kenya.

Ahmed also has family in both the United States and Canada who are “ready and willing” to support him if he is cleared for transfer. However, should the PRB decide to do so, Ahmed could not be transferred to the United States. Current law prohibits this as well as transfers to Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Provisions in the House and Senate’s defense spending authorization bills for the fiscal year 2017 continue these transfer bans, with the Senate version adding an additional 26 countries—where the United States has issued a travel warning—including Kenya, where Ahmed’s family lives.

As Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald noted in her article, after yesterday’s PRB decision clearing a Yemeni captive for resettlement in another foreign nation, half of the remaining detainees eligible for review have now been approved for transfer. In the coming months this number could rise, assuming the Obama Administration continues its efforts to provide an initial review to all eligible detainees by fall 2016.  There are still ten detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo awaiting their initial hearings or decisions.