Mussab al-Madhwani is part of a group known as the Karachi 6, named for the city in Pakistan where they were seized 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.
The U.S. has tempered its claims about the Karachi 6 in recent years, describing them now as low-level al-Qaida fighters.
“We judge that it is more likely the six Yemenis were among a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al-Qaida planners considered potentially available to support future operations,” the U.S. wrote in al-Madhwani’s unclassified government profile, which an anonymous male voice read aloud during the hearing.
Meanwhile Amnesty International has said al-Madhwani “was tied up, blindfolded, beaten with a rifle and threatened with death” after his capture.
After taking custody of al-Madhwani from Pakistan, but before bringing the detainee to Guantanamo, the United States transferred him to a secret prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was tortured for a month.
The U.S. credits al-Madhwani with providing some modestly valuable information about al-Qaida, but says he has never admitted to an ideological affiliation with the group, clouding its understanding of his motives for traveling to Afghanistan.
“While in detention, YM-839 has denounced extremism and not expressed any anti-American sentiment,” the anonymous male voice said, using the detainee’s internment serial number.
Al-Madhwani could be seen in the closed-circuit viewing of the 15-minute hearing at the Pentagon dressed in a long-sleeved, white shirt and a short beard. For much of his hearing, he sat nearly motionless with a blank expression on his face.
His attorney and anonymous, male military representative told the board that al-Madhwani ran away from home after al-Qaida lured him to the movement in Afghanistan with false promises of charity opportunities and adventure.
Reality set in for al-Madhwani shortly after his arrival, his representative said, when his return ticket and passport were confiscated.
Patricia Bronte, an attorney, said in a public statement that al-Madhwani was stuck in Afghanistan until the onset of coalition operations, and spent months wandering as a refugee through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran trying to get home.
“In 2009, I sat down and mapped out his travels, including the length of time Musa’ab said he stayed in each place,” Bronte said, using an alternative spelling of the detainee’s name in her written statement. “I consulted independent documentation that Musa’ab could not have seen or known about. Somewhat to my surprise, I was able to confirm Musa’ab’s account of his travels, right down to the day.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan upheld al-Madhwani’s detention at Guantanamo in 2010 because he found that the government met its burden of proof.
Hogan also said he did not believe al-Madhwani was dangerous, however, and the detainee’s attorney brought this finding to the board’s attention.
“It does not appear he even finished his weapons training,” Hogan concluded. “There is no evidence that he fired a weapon in battle or was on the front lines. There is also no evidence that he planned, participated in, or knew of any terrorist plots. Classified documents in the record confirm the court’s assessment.”
Bronte said al-Madhwani is embarrassed that al-Qaida persuaded him to run away. She spoke of him fondly, noting that he is no longer that shy, gullible young man. Describing him as honest, polite and generous, Bronte recalled for the board a snippet of a letter he wrote to her during a time when detainees believed they would no longer be able to meet with their attorneys, which she included in a 2007 letter to the editor of the New York Times.
“If the government severs communications between us, and we are not able to ever meet, I want to say to you,” al-Madhwani wrote. “Thank you for standing by me in this ordeal of mine. … I will never forget compassionate Patricia who gave me hope and made me realize that there is still goodness in this nation.”
Bronte told the board she would gladly move him in with her family if it were possible, and has vowed to attend his future wedding should he be transferred to another country with appropriate security assurances. Although al-Madhwani’s parents have died since he has been at Guantanamo, his siblings stand ready to support him, the attorney said.
Earlier this year, the Periodic Review Board recommended two of the other Karachi 6 for transfer: Ayub Murshid Ali Salih and Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah. The board should issue a ruling on al-Madhwani within the next few months.
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