Gitmo Review Board Weighs Transfer of Somali Detainee

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A high-value Guantanamo Bay detainee who likes to read “Harry Potter” books appeared without an attorney Tuesday to ask the parole board for transfer from the prison.
     Though Somali Guleed Hassan Ahmed, 42, had no legal representation, two anonymous military representatives who have known him for one month spoke on his behalf.
     “Guleed likes to watch National Geographic movies, ‘Blue Planet’ documentaries, and anything about science or nature. He likes to read religious books, ‘Harry Potter’ books, the Economist and Newsweek,” one of them said, reading from a public statement.
     Ahmed has not had access to as many prison programs and classes because he is a high-value detainee, the representative said.
     Ahmed appeared before the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board in a long-sleeve, white tunic and looked intently engaged during the 20-minute hearing, which Courthouse News viewed from the Pentagon in a closed-circuit feed.
     Very little is publicly known about Ahmed, who the U.S. has never charged with a crime. He arrived at Guantanamo in September 2006, though the U.K.-based Rendition Project says he entered CIA custody in March 2004 — not much is known about what happened to him in between.
     However, Ahmed did testify in June during pre-trial hearings for the five alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks about disruptive noises and vibrations in high-security Camp Seven, the part of Guantanamo where the U.S. holds former CIA captives.
     Defense attorneys called Ahmed to testify to bolster claims that prison staff have continued to harass alleged 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh, despite a 2013 court order to stop.
     “We have mental torture at Camp Seven,” Ahmed had said in court, noting that the noises are ongoing and only get worse if he complains.
     The U.S. claims that Ahmed probably received al-Qaida training in Afghanistan in 1995, and several years later joined what it deemed a radical Muslim group, al Ittihad al Islamiya, or AIAI.
     According to the Mapping Militants Project by Stanford University, the Somali Salafist group was founded by Islamic leaders to combat Western influence and establish an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa.
     According to the project, AIAI was initially nonviolent but later took up arms against Somali dictator Siad Barre – which drew wide national support – and later launched attacks in Ethiopia against mostly soldiers in an effort to control part of the country.
     The U.S. says Ahmed participated in the attacks against the Ethiopian military and trained other group members. However, the Stanford project says the group announced its transition from militancy to politics in January 1997, the same year the U.S. says Ahmed worked with the group.
     There is no evidence to suggest that AIAI ever functioned as a political party, but it did cease to exist in 1997, the Stanford project says.
     According to U.S. prosecutors, Ahmed later worked with al-Qaida’s East Africa branch in Somalia.
     “He provided logistical and operational support to AQEA leaders, including almost certainly casing Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, the target of an AQEA plot,” his unclassified summary states, abbreviating al-Qaida in East Africa.
     According to the Rendition Project, that admission was made during CIA interrogations prior to his rendition into CIA custody.
     The U.S. says Ahmed has downplayed his extremist connections after initially admitting al-Qaida affiliation, and continues to support hatred for the West and support for violent extremism.
     “S0-10023 almost certainly remains a committed extremist and retains a worldview aligned with al-Qaida’s global jihadist ideology, but has consistently attempted to deceive U.S. officials by saying that he only supports regional insurgent efforts,” his summary states, using his internment serial number.
     The U.S. believes he could return to the battlefield if released. However, his personal representatives say that Ahmed harbors no ill will toward the U.S.
     “He has stated he wants nothing to do with extremism anymore and does not consider himself to be a threat to anyone,” one of his representatives said Tuesday.
     Ahmed has a wife and four children he would like to reunite with, and family in Canada and the U.S., his representative said.
     On Monday, the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board cleared Yemeni Musab Omar Ali al Madhwani, 36, for release. His attorney, Patricia Bronte, told the board on June 28 that she would move him in with her family if it were possible, and that her client feels embarrassed by his prior actions.
     The board has cleared 33 of the remaining 76 detainees at Guantanamo, who will be released to countries that can provide security arrangements that satisfy Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
     The board will likely issue its decision on Ahmed within the next two months.

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