Gitmo’s Youngest Detainee Fights for Release

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The board weighing the fates of Guantanamo Bay’s remaining wards focused Thursday on the prison camp’s youngest detainee — a man once tortured by the CIA for up to 12 hours a day.
     Hassan Muhammad Salih bin Attash was 17 when Pakistani forces captured him from his home during raids in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sept. 11, 2002, attorney David Remes told the periodic review board this morning.
     Other information from the Rendition Project suggests that the Saudi-born bin Attash was as young as 16. He is the younger brother of accused 9/11 plotter Walid bin Attash.
     The United States tells of the brother’s capture differently — saying the teen was found at an al-Qaida safe house with suspected senior al-Qaida operative Ramzi bin al-Shibh. In addition to calling him an al-Qaida facilitator and explosives specialist, the government says Hassan bin Attash served as a body guard for Osama bin Laden.
     Remes countered that he has never heard his client of 11 years express extremist views.
     “He is very friendly, and I consider him a friend,” Remes told the Guantanamo parole board, reading from his prepared statement. “If circumstances allowed, I would have him as a guest in my home.”
     After three days in a Karachi prison, bin Attash was rendered into CIA custody in Afghanistan, then transferred to a CIA secret prison in Jordan.
     Bin Attash’s brother Walid is being tried for war crimes by the military commission in the Guantanamo war court with four other alleged 9/11 plotters, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. All five face the death penalty, though a trial date is not yet on the horizon.
     The younger bin Attash has claimed that he was tortured for two years by employees and agents of the United States. While in Jordanian custody, interrogations lasted up to 12 hours per day for a three month stretch, according to bin Attash’s habeas petition.
     In a written declaration from 2011 Remes said: “The Jordanians tortured Hassan mercilessly, slapping and punching him, and making him lie down and stepping on his body and face. They also dragged him through the hallways to prevent him from sleeping. Hassan told counsel that the sleep deprivation was one of his worst tortures, making him almost crazy. The Americans have cruelly called this form of torture the ‘frequent flyer program.'”
     Remes noted that Americans were present during bin Attash’s interrogation and beating sessions.
     “Hassan suffered other tortures in the Jordanian prison,” he wrote. “Sadistically, Hassan’s keepers would lie him on his back, raise his feet above his head, secure his legs on a horizontal bar, and thrash the soles of his feet until they were raw, and afterward force him to stand in a pile of salt half-melted by hot water. Hassan has told counsel that he felt as though he was walking on hot coals, and that eventually he actually tasted salt.”
     An unclassified government profile on bin Attash say the detainee “grew up immersed in violent extremist ideology, coming from a family closely associated with Osama bin Laden.”
     The U.S. says he pledged allegiance to bin Laden in 1997 in Afghanistan. Though his government profile says he was born in 1982, Remes says bin Attash is roughly 31 now, which would have made him about 12 at the time.
     If the government account of his age is more accurate, he would have been about 15 in 1997.
     The U.S. says bin Attash moved to Pakistan in 2000 to help facilitate logistics and travel for al-Qaida for two years. “He also facilitated al-Qaeda external operations against U.S. and other Western targets, and was himself selected to participate in two such planned attacks,” according to his profile, which an anonymous female voice read verbatim during a closed-circuit viewing of the hearing at the Pentagon.
     Bin Attash could be seen in the video wearing a plain white T-shirt with a short beard, sifting quietly through papers as the hearing proceeded.
     Two anonymous military representatives told the board that bin Attash — who is fluent in English, Arabic and Pashtu, and dabbles in Urdu and Farsi — would like to go to college and become an English-Arabic translator. Describing him as optimistic, the representatives told the board in a written statement that he is currently working on completing a U.S. high school GED.
     Remes says bin Attash arrived at Guantanamo with only an elementary education.
     “He did not know English when I first met him; now he is fluent, and his English is unaccented,” Remes told the board, adding that the detainee’s post-Guantanamo professional-translation ambitions are realistic.
     But the U.S. says bin Attash continues to harbor an extremist mindset, and considers Westerners his enemies.
     “SA-1456 probably could leverage family ties and terrorist contacts should he decide to reengage in terrorist activity after his transfer,” his profile states, referring to the man by his internment serial number.
     Remes denies that bin Attash poses a threat to the United States, however, and recommended that the board release him.
     Thursday’s hearing marks the end of the initial parole reviews for the remaining Guantanamo detainees. Of the 52 detainees to go through the process, 33 have been cleared for release and 20 of them have already been transferred to third countries with security assurances that satisfy Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Nineteen of the 52 have been recommended for continued law of war detention, and will undergo a second Periodic Review Board hearing in the future.
     The board should issue a decision on bin Attash within the next two months.
     Remes said bin Attash is among 22 juveniles the United States has held without charge or trial at its naval base in Cuba.

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