Guantanamo Board Mulls Release for Camp Cook

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A Guantanamo prisoner with an affinity for Dale Carnegie business books and cooking had his turn before the periodic review board Tuesday morning to plead his case for release.
     Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, known to the government as KE-10025, sat still with his arms crossed during his hearing, donning a long-sleeved white shirt and what looked like a black do-rag on his head.
     Bajabu has no attorney yet, but his personal representatives provided a statement to the government on his behalf, describing him as “visibly overjoyed” upon learning of the periodic review process.
     “He has remained positive at all of our meetings and has always demonstrated his gratefulness and his respect toward us,” one of his anonymous representatives said in a publicly available statement to the board.
     Bajabu “has gained a sense of achievement by being a camp cook for his fellow detainees,” and “his thirst for business knowledge includes reading Dale Carnegie business management books,” the male representative said.
     Bajabu also has a female representative, but his relationship with both has been brief thus far. Their statement indicates that they have been meeting since mid-March.
     The periodic review board process provides detainees at Guantanamo with the representatives to challenge government information about them and introduce other information. The length of those relationships varies, and the Defense Department conceals the identities of the military representatives for security reasons, said Cmdr. Gary Ross with the Pentagon’s press office.
     “Abdul Malik has not made any negative or a derogatory remark toward U.S. policies nor has he expressed an interest in extremist activities of any kind,” Bajabu’s male representative, dressed in military fatigues, told the board.
     The U.S. government only half-agrees.
     “KE-10025 has not expressed continued support for extremist activity or anti-U.S. sentiments, although he is critical of U.S. foreign policy,” according to his unclassified profile, which a female voice usually reads verbatim during the hearing. Today, however, technical difficulties with the video stream at the Pentagon precluded that portion of the hearing.
     The U.S. says Ugandan-born Bajabu, a Kenyan citizen, received extremist training in Somalia in 1996, and developed a close relationship with high-level operational planners of the East African branch of al-Qaida.
     In February 2007, Kenyan authorities arrested Bajabu for his involvement in the 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya.
     The U.S., which says Bajabu admitted to those attacks, took custody of the man a month later, holding him at Guantanamo without charge or trial ever since.
     A previously classified profile describes Bajabu, roughly 43, as a confirmed member of the East African al-Qaida network.
     “Detainee actively participated in operational planning, facilitation of illegal weapons, and terrorist activities against U.S. and Coalition forces,” it states.
     The U.S. calls Bajabu a highly compliant detainee, but its public profile says he offered conflicting narratives during debriefings “about his activities prior to his arrest.”
     Using the abbreviation for al-Qaida in East Africa, it said Bajabu “would not provide much information of value about his AQEA associates or the group’s operations.”
     Bajabu stopped cooperating with interrogators after a few months and ceased attending those sessions in mid-2010, his public profile states.
     “As a result, we have gaps in our understanding of his activities from 1997-2002 and again from 2003-2006,” it says.
     The U.S. says Bajabu considers himself a Quranic healer and that he holds conservative Islamic views. Because of that, assimilation into a non-Muslim country will be difficult if he is cleared for release, according to his unclassified profile.
     But the detainee’s representatives say Bajabu longs to reunite with his wife and children, and wants to move on with his life. “We are convinced that Abdul Malik’s intention to pursue a better way of life if transferred from Guantanamo Bay is authentic and that he bears no animosity towards anyone,” their statement says.
     Before his associations with al-Qaida, according to his previously classified profile, Bajabu served as an apprentice at an auto mechanic’s shop, worked at several tea companies and started his own business selling avocados and bananas.
     Noting that he has a strong mind for entrepreneurship, the representatives said Bajabu’s prior business experience will help him obtain employment in any country to which he is transferred.
     “He looks forward to seeing his sisters and brothers and meeting some of the newest members of his family who were born during his time in detention,” the male representative said.
     Bajabu is willing to go anywhere, but would prefer to be transferred to an Arabic-speaking country, his male representative said, adding that he is willing to participate in rehabilitation or reintegration programs.
     President Obama established the periodic review board process to determine which of the 43 remaining “forever prisoners,” of which Bajabu is among, warrant ongoing detention.
     The forever prisoners have been held indefinitely and were previously considered too dangerous to release, though the U.S. has lacked evidence to put them on trial. At stake in the review process is whether the detainees continue to pose a threat to U.S. national security, or merit release.
     The board consists of senior officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, the Joint Staff, Justice, State and the Office of Director of National Security.
     Human Rights First says the board does not rely on information obtained through torture or other degrading treatment.
     The board will likely issue its ruling on Bajabu within the next two months.

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