Gitmo Parole Hearing Goes Well for Afghan

           WASHINGTON (CN) — Guantanamo Bay’s parole board heard Thursday that bad luck and bad judgment led a man to perform work for the Taliban that has landed him behind bars without a charge for the past 15 years.
     In its one-page profile of the detainee, the United States claims with “moderate confidence” that Haji Wali Mohammad conducted financial transactions for the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in the early and mid-1990s.
     Hesitating to assert a definitive link to the terrorist, however, authorities concede that there a number of people with similar names to that of the detainee.
     Mohammad wore a white, short-sleeved tunic this morning for his hearing before the board tasked with winding down operations at Guantanamo as President Barack Obama prepares to leave office. The detainee’s hair was cut short, especially on the sides of his head. His beard appeared long and full, though, graying as it neared his chest.
     A closed-circuit feed at the Pentagon of the hearing in Cuba showed Mohammad glancing down at papers on the table in front of him while an unnamed government representative read his detainee profile. It says Mohammad’s work with the Taliban was likely for “financial gain.”
     Representatives for the detainee, who is thought to be 50 or 51 years old, admitted that Mohammad did strike a deal in 1997 to do currency exchange work for the Afghanistan Central Bank, which the Taliban controlled at the time.
     Insisting that Mohammad was no trusted partner, however, they say the Taliban threatened Mohammad with prison time after he lost half a million dollars of the bank’s investment in the deal.
     “This is not the kind of treatment one would expect of someone who was part of or of any importance to the Taliban,” Mohammad’s attorney said at the hearing.
     Mohammad also does not speak the same language as bin Laden, an attorney for the detainee noted. He said both factors make it “implausible” that Mohammad worked with either the Taliban or al-Qaida in any meaningful way.
     Reading from prepared statements, Mohammad’s personal representative and private attorney both said the Afghan was not involved with any terrorist organization.
     Calling the government’s identification of Mohammad “problematic,” the attorney noted that Wali Mohammad is such a common name that even former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had the name on his passport.
     Many government profiles of the detainees held at Guantanamo are pessimistic about a prisoner’s prospects for rejoining the terror fight if approved for release, but Mohammad’s is much softer. At times, it even appears sympathetic about his former association with the Taliban.
     “AF-560 during his detention has never made statements clearly endorsing or supporting al Qaeda or other extremist ideology, but probably has a pragmatic view of the role the Taliban held in Afghanistan,” the profile reads, referring to Mohammad by his detainee identification number. “He most likely judged that it was prudent to work with, rather than against, the Taliban government in the 1990s.”
     It also says Mohammad has developed “a more liberal view of politics” during his detention and now thinks the Taliban must make changes to its policies on women’s rights and education to remain viable in Afghanistan.
     As a detainee, according to the profile, Mohammad has been “highly compliant” and willing to provide information on goings-on within the camp and with regard to other detainees.
     After the unnamed government voice read his profile, Mohammad’s attorney and representative attempted to give the board a fuller picture of the detainee, calling him an open and honest man devoted to his family.
     Mohammad has no desire to get into politics, but would rather reconnect with the family from which he has been separated for more than a decade if the review board were to recommend his release, his personal representative said.
     A “jovial person” who regales his personal representative and attorney with funny stories during meetings, Mohammad plans to spend the rest of his life with his family and watching his beloved Afghanistan cricket team, his representative said.
     “His detention has been truly difficult in this regard as he longs to reunite with his family,” Mohammad’s representative said. “His children are the light of his life and their memory occupies his thoughts.”

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