Big-Brother Figure Makes Case for Gitmo Release

     WASHINGTON (CN) — One of the six Guantanamo detainees captured on the first anniversary of 9/11 has grown protective of others in the prison camp, his attorney told a review board Thursday, pushing for the man’s release.
     Jennifer Cowan, with Debevoise & Plimpton, has known Hail Azziz Ahmed al-Maythali for 11 years, and asked the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board to transfer him from the prison.
     “Hayil was young when he came to Guantanamo, and I will be candid in recognizing that at times Hayil’s detention has been difficult for him, and he has been angry about his treatment at Guantanamo,” Cowan said, reading from her unclassified statement, which uses an alternate spelling of her client’s name.
     Since then, al-Maythali has matured and regrets decisions he made that led to his capture, she said.
     An anonymous female military representative for the detainee told a similar tale.
     “He recognizes that he made bad decisions in the past and he has no interest in repeating these mistakes,” she told the board, as she read from her unclassified statement. “Hayil realizes that it was a mistake to go someplace else and fight for a cause that was not his.”
     Al-Maythali is part of a group known as the Karachi 6, named for the city in Pakistan where they were seized at an on Sept. 11, 2002.
     Though the United States initially suspected that the six were involved with an al-Qaida cell plotting a future attack, the case has failed to get off the ground for 14 years for lack of evidence. As documented in the detainee’s unclassified profile, U.S. has tempered its claims about the Karachi 6 in recent years, describing them now as low-level al-Qaida fighters.
     A female voice read the profile aloud during the public portion of his hearing shown by closed-circuit television at the Pentagon.
     Like some of the other men with whom he was captured, al-Maythali was probably trying to return to Yemen during his time at the safehouse, the U.S. says.
     Al-Maythali appeared before the board in a short-sleeved white shirt, with a short but full dark beard. He read from several stacks of papers sitting on the table, though his hands mostly rested in his lap.
     The U.S. says he probably retains some anti-American views, but has been guarded in talking about his views on extremism and violence.
     Cowan described the detainee meanwhile as “open-minded, self-reflective and focused on his future.”
     She recalled how al-Maythali would not shake her hand when they first met, and asked her to cover her hair. She obliged, and sat in the back of the room during their meetings, while her male colleagues and an interpreter sat at the table with him, she told the board.
     Al-Maythali would not speak directly to her, she said. But things are different now.
     “When I meet with Hayil now, I do not cover my hair,” she said. “We shake hands warmly, and we sit at the table together and engage in direct conversation.”
     Cowan described to the board a man who has looked after the other detainees. He helped another of Cowan’s Guantanamo clients when he was ill, and has served as a liaison between the detainees and detention staff, she said.
     The U.S. backs up Cowan’s assertion.
     “YM-840 acts as a spokesperson for the other detainees on his cell block and has provided interrogators with information about camp dynamics and other detainees’ noncompliance,” a female voice said, using al-Maythali’s internment serial number.
     A representative for the detainee says al-Maythali has taken up carpentry and cooking at Guantanamo. He has also learned English and “has grown substantially as a person,” the representative added.
     Al-Maythali would like to start a family if the Periodic Review Board clears him for transfer to a country that can offer the appropriate security assurances, Cowan said. He has invited the attorney to attend his wedding, should he marry in the future. He remains close to his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews.
     “On many occasions, he has expressed to me his regret at not being part of their lives because of his detention at Guantanamo,” Cowan said.
     Earlier this year the Periodic Review Board recommended Ayub Murshid Ali Salih and Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah, two of the other Karachi 6, for release.
     Another from the group, Mussab al-Madhwani, pleaded his case for transfer just this past Tuesday.
     The board should issue rulings for al-Madhwani and al-Maythali within the next few months.

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