Gitmo Review Board Told of Detainee’s Family Ties

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A Moroccan sold for a bounty into U.S. captivity pleaded his case to go home Tuesday before Guantanamo Bay’s Periodic Review Board.
     Appearing before the board on the second day of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims, Abdul Latif Nasir sported a medium-length beard, a small, white hat and a short-sleeved, white shirt. He sat with his arms mostly folded, intently reading along during the hearing in Cuba, streamed live to the Pentagon.
     Referring to the detainee as MO244, the U.S. government says Nasir made the rounds on the extremist circuit, finding his way from his native Morocco to Libya, Sudan, Yemen and later Afghanistan.
     Nasir allegedly belonged to Morocco’s Jamaat al-Adl wal-Ihsan, a nonviolent Islamist group with mystical, Sufi leanings, according to his unclassified profile. Though the group is officially banned in Morocco, the government has tolerated its presence. The group has previously rejected political participation, preferring instead to focus on social activism and outreach.
     Nasir was working in Sudan at a charcoal production company owned by Osama bin Laden in 1996, the U.S. claims, when the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group recruited him to fight in Chechnya.
     On his way to Chechnya, however, Nasir allegedly got rerouted from Yemen to Afghanistan, and received weapons training from al-Qaida in 1997.
     Nasir is said to have became a weapons trainer there at al-Farouq training camp and “a member of the al-Qaida training subcommittee.”
     The U.S. also claims Nasir was a Taliban commander who fought on the front lines in Kabul, Bagram and Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Though his unclassified profile does not give dates during which he allegedly fought in Kabul and Bagram, it says he “led a retreat from Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001 and acted in a leadership role at Tora Bora during fighting against U.S. forces.”
     Nasir’s unclassified profile says very little about where he was captured, but his previously classified profile says the U.S. captured him in Sulayman Khel in December 2001, after he and 52 fighters gathered in Tora Bora as part of an attempted escape to Pakistan.
     He was taken to the Kabul prison after that and has remained without charge or trial at Guantanamo since May 3, 2002.
     Nasir’s previously classified profile indicates the detainee has changed his story numerous times, has provided conflicting accounts to interrogators and is now uncooperative.
     It is unclear if Nasir was tortured while in U.S. custody, but the U.S. says it brought him to Guantanamo to get information about caves at Tora Bora, the al-Farouq training camp, Osama bin Laden, several other camps and Taliban tactics, according to his previously classified profile.
     The U.S. says it captured Nasir with bandages, pills and a piece of paper written in Farsi “with instructions for taking Amoxicillin, Percocet, Dexameth, liver medicine, and multi-vitamins,” his previously classified profile states.
     The detainee’s attorney meanwhile had only nice things to say about her client.
     “Mr. Nasir has come a long way since he was sold for a bounty into American captivity back in 2002, having never experienced U.S. or Western culture,” said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, of the group Reprieve, which has worked with more than three dozen repatriated Guantanamo detainees.
     Though his culture would not have permitted this, Nasir has learned English and has learned to respect and work with her, Sullivan-Bennis said.
     Sullivan-Bennis described her client, 51, as an “introspective, intelligent and kind-hearted man,” with a background in math and science who “famously, across the whole prison base,” drafted a 2,000 word English-Arabic dictionary.
     Nasir has the strong support of his family, including two brothers and five sisters, she said in her publicly available statement.
     If repatriated to Morocco, Nasir could live with his family in their five-bedroom home in Casablanca, where he could work for his brother’s successful water-treatment company as a water-treatment engineer, she told the board.
     “He will not be welcomed by one or two people, but a household full of stable, working family to help reintegrate him into society and give him purpose,” she said.
     In working with repatriated and transferred Guantanamo prisoners, Sullivan-Bennis said family support is the most important factor in determining a detainee’s success after transfer.
     “Team members have met the newborn babies of many of the men we have worked with and watched as they have refocused their lives on parental responsibilities and bringing up their children as best they can,” she said. “The extent and nature of the support that Mr. Nasir’s family is prepared to provide set the ideal conditions for his release.”
     Sullivan-Bennis noted that Nasir would have access to psychological health facilities in Casablanca with whom Reprieve has direct contracts to provide services to their clients.
     She then took a few moments to highlight Reprieve’s United Nations-funded “Life After Guantanamo” program, where Reprieve works with the State Department and host government on transition plans for former detainees. In some cases that has meant in-person visits, financial support, and referrals for job placement and mental health care.
     Reprieve would extend the same assistance to Nasir, she said.
     So far, the Periodic Review Board has cleared 30 of the remaining 80 prisoners for transfer with the appropriate security assurances from host countries. The board should issue its final ruling on Nasir within the next few months.

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