ARLINGTON, Va.: A Guantanamo Bay detainee portrayed by his U.S. jailers as almost certainly a former al-Qaida member pleaded through his lawyer Tuesday to be freed from the Navy-run prison in Cuba, where he has been held without charges for 12 years.
Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, 34, only wants to rejoin his Yemeni family, attend college, teach and start an agricultural business, Yemen Milk and Honey Farms Ltd., attorney David Remes told a review panel whose proceedings, for the first time, were partly open to the public.
Remes said al-Rahabi is a model prisoner with a family, including a wife and 13-year-old daughter, who “will keep him firmly anchored at home.”
The government countered in a detainee profile that al-Rahabi reportedly was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and fought on the front lines. Before his arrest, he “associated closely with extremists who are now active in Yemen,” according to the document, which was read aloud during the public portion of Tuesday’s hearing.
Those extremists include a brother-in-law who is a “prominent extremist” in their hometown of Ibb, according to the profile.
“The marginal security environment in Ibb probably would give [al-Rahabi] ample opportunities” to rejoin al-Qaida, the government document concluded.
Both sides made their presentations to the Periodic Review Board, a panel composed of representatives from six U.S. government agencies. The panel now must reach a consensus on whether al-Rahabi poses any lingering threat to the United States, a process that could take weeks.
The public portion of the hearing lasted just 19 minutes, with al-Rahabi, his lawyer and his two military “personal representatives” linked by video from Cuba to the board in Arlington. Eight journalists and four human-rights advocates watched the video feed from a conference room in the same suburban Washington office building that houses the board’s offices.
The board then adjourned into a closed session to protect classified information. The review board is a component of President Barack Obama’s effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.