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‘Karachi 6’ Yemeni Faces New Guantanamo Review

WASHINGTON (CN) — One month after recommending the release of a so-called Karachi Six detainee, the Guantanamo Period Review Board met Thursday to weigh the fate of someone captured with this man.

Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah "does not pose a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States," a personal representative for the Yemeni national told the board at a hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the public portion of the roughly 20-minute hearing, streamed on a closed-circuit channel at the Pentagon, Al-Marwalah could be seen in a short-sleeved, white T-shirt, occasionally flipping through papers.

Detained for 13 years and six months, Al-Marwalah is among the "forever" prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center — a group whom the United States previously deemed too dangerous to release but lacked evidence to put on trial.

Al-Marwalah's detainee profile describes him as a "low-level Yemeni militant," who received training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan to "support the jihadist cause in Chechnya" and "to fight with Muslims against the Russians."

U.S. forces nabbed al-Marwalah, known as detainee YM-837, in Karachi, Pakistan, on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Seized with five other men during the raid, al-Marwalah is part of a group the United States has dubbed the Karachi Six, suspected then of involvement with an al-Qaida cell plotting a future attack.

Today's periodic review board hearing revealed, however, that this claim about the men has since been tempered.

"We judge that this label more accurately reflects the common circumstances of their arrest and that it is more likely the six Yemenis were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al-Qaeda planners considered potentially available to support future operations," al-Marwalah's profile says, using an alternate spelling for the terror group.

The board recommended release on March 26 for another of the "Karachi Six," Ayub Murshid Ali Salih, after his Feb. 16 review. The board determined that Salih was a low-level fighter, noting his "relative candor in discussing his time in Afghanistan."

That could bode well for the board's final determination on al-Marwalah, though the United States says he has been less forthcoming than Salih was.

Erin Thomas, an attorney for the detainee with Covington & Burling, painted a tale of regret, telling the review board that al-Marwalah longs for the life he lost when he decided to leave Yemen for Afghanistan.

"He would still be close to his beloved family," Thomas said. "As the oldest brother, he would have been around to provide guidance to his siblings. He would know his youngest sister and youngest brother who were both born after Bashir left. He would have a career, and likely a family of his own," she continued.

Al-Marwalah's profile describes these wholesome objectives, as well, but says there is little evidence to back them up.

"While YM-837 has voiced a desire to return to his family, get married, and get a job upon release, we do not know if this intent is genuine," it states.

Some of his statements "suggest deception and withholding of information," the profile notes, adding the detainee has two brothers who are likely involved with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. If al-Marwalah so desired, the profile says, they could open doors to extremist networks upon his release.

While the profile describes al-Marwalah as "highly compliant," Thomas called him "kind, compassionate and sincere."

"Throughout his decade-long relationship with his American attorneys, he has been unfailingly gracious, thankful for our work, and curious about the way we live," she told the board. "He sends thank-you notes after we visit, and letters of congratulations when we get married or have children. Bashir has never expressed bitterness, anti-American sentiment, or extremist views to us."

The profile meanwhile says al-Marwalah has been vague about his activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that he has extensive knowledge of senior al-Qaida figures and operations.

Ultimately, however, the U.S. has never verified al-Marwalah's role in operational plotting for al-Qaida.

"In debriefings, YM-837 has never admitted to an affiliation with al-Qaeda, has never expressed anti-American sentiment, and has denied any role in or knowledge of future terrorist activity against the U.S.," the profile says.

The Obama administration implemented the periodic review board process to re-evaluate "forever" prisoners previously determined too dangerous to release.

The U.S. continues to detain who are deemed risks to U.S. national security.

So far, the periodic review board has recommended that 20 of the forever prisoners be released - that constitutes 71 percent of the 28 detainees who have gone through the full review process, and who were previously considered too dangerous to release.

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