US says Guantanamo detainee 'mistaken' for terrorist

US says Guantanamo detainee who has been held in prison for 13 years was 'mistaken' for terrorist with similar name

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

In this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo, reviewed by a US Dept of Defense official, US military personnel inspect each occupied cell on a two-minute cycle at Camp 5 maximum-security facility on the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba

US officials on Tuesday released documents that said a Yemeni prisoner detained at the controversial Guantanamo Bay Prison has been falsely accused of being a significant member of Al-Qaida.

The documents produced by Guantanamo’s interagency review mechanism, Periodic Review Board, concluded that Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri was just a low-level fighter associated with members of Al-Qaida, instead of a courier and trainer of the group.

The review board said they had confused the 37-year-old detainee with other Al-Qaida militants with a similar name. "We ... judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists," it said.

Al-Shamiri was captured in Afghanistan and has been held in the prison for more than 13 years without being charged with any crime.

If the interagency review board approves his release, he will be sent to a third country since, US reinstated a ban on repatriating Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen, Al-Shamiri’s home country, because it believes it is unstable to accept detainees.

Al-Shamiri’s representatives appointed by the US government submitted a document for a hearing held on Tuesday.

"He has vocalised to us that while he cannot change the past, he would definitely have chosen a different path," the written statement said, "He wants to make a life for himself."

The statement gave information about Al-Shamiri’s attitude in the prison.

"Mustafa generously took the time to prepare over 30 plates of pastries for his fellow detainees," it said.

"When I asked him why he would make pastries for his fellow detainees, he said it's because it makes him feel like he can give back and share with people."

The statement also said he “has attended English and art classes, in addition to acquiring carpentry and cooking skills,” in the prison.

There are 107 detainees, including almost 50 detainees who are already cleared for release, are left in Guantanamo.

Obama’s failed efforts to close Guantanamo

During his presidential campaign and throughout his term in office US President Barack Obama has vowed several times to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

In 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in a year by releasing as much detainees as he can and transferring the remaining detainees to US supermax prisons.

However, starting in 2009, US Congress has been using its power over spending to block efforts to close Guantanamo.

The provisions ban the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the US for any purpose, such as detention in prisons in the US and trial in federal courts.

These provisions are renewed in the defence bill for the 2016 federal fiscal year.

Obama vetoed the $612 billion annual defence bill that once again blocks his efforts, however, the US Congress passed the bill with an overwhelming majority.

Obama’s critics, mainly Republicans, argue transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US soil or other countries will carry risks of further terrorist activity.

However, most of the detainees have never been charged with terrorism.

TRTWorld and agencies