Guantanamo Detainee Seeks Release; Legal Observer Not Permitted to Attend

Abdul Rabbani

Abdul Rabbani set to plead for release from Guantanamo Bay

On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2016, a Pakistani detainee imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2004 was scheduled to formally plead for his freedom. Such hearings are held at Guantanamo Bay, but are piped in by live video at a secure location near the Pentagon.

I have for many months sought to observe these hearings — called Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) — but have not been granted permission. Members of the human rights community, media, and others routinely attend and observe these hearings. I am awaiting a letter from the Director of the Office in charge, telling me “yes” or “no”, officially, whether I will be able to observe the last scheduled of the “initial review” PRBs. The last in this initial series is scheduled for Thursday, 14 July 2016 — one week from today.

Abdul Rabbani, born in Saudi Arabia but claiming Pakistani citizenship, is alleged, among other things, to have operated safe houses in Karachi, Pakistan that housed high level al Qaeda members, and to have had links with Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaik Mohammad, and 11 of the 9/11 hijackers.

Today’s hearing is not a criminal in nature (unlike all the other Guantanamo Bay hearings I have observer) — today there are no charges, judge, or jury.

Today’s hearing was prompted by a 2011 Presidential Executive Order through which detainees are periodically reviewed on whether they maintain a threat to U.S. national security. If they do not pose a threat, they could in theory be set free from Guantanamo Bay (as many hundreds have been released since 2002, and have many dozens have been released recently).

These PRB hearings are incredibly important for many reasons, and it is important for observers to be able to observe them, live, in progress, at least from the remote security DC-area facility.

Instead of a bona fide judge and jury, this morning Rabbani would have made his case for release to a a cross-section of representatives of the US national security community that he is not a threat to the national security of the US, and that he should be repatriated to his home country or transferred to a third country. They would likely render a decision within a month from today.

If they find that he is not a significant threat, that might be another step in the direction of Guantanamo Bay closing, if Rabbani could be freed from Guantanamo. The Guantanamo Bay population is below 70 detainees, from a high of 780.

Did Rabanni’s hearing happen this morning?

I do not yet know if the hearing went forward this morning. Though I timely requested to observe, and submitted significant materials in support of my request, I was not granted permission to attend and observe.

I posted earlier about the published standards for clearing observers for PRB hearings, and linked to the Pentagon website that lists the standards.

We at the Periodic Review Board (PRB) Project are very much looking forward to receiving an official letter either officially granting permission to attend next week’s final “initial review” PRB, or officially denying permission to attend and observer next week’s final “initial review” PRB.

We will keep you posted!

PS:  I will plan to post some of the materials I submitted to the Pentagon as credentials to gain PRB observer status.

George Gedwards

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