Feds say Guantanámo detainee was victim of mistaken identity

Feds say Guantanámo detainee was victim of mistaken identity
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A Yemeni man detained for 13 years at the U.S. military prison in Guantanámo Bay, Cuba, appears to be the victim of mistaken identity, the U.S. government said in documents released on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old man, Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, was actually a low-level fighter, the Pentagon acknowledged ahead of a review board hearing on Wednesday, and not a high-level official within al Qaeda.

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U.S. officials had “previously assessed” that al-Shamiri was a “facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer” for al Qaeda, the government said in a “detainee profile” released on Tuesday.

“[B]ut we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to” his own.

Al-Shamiri has been imprisoned at the detention facility since June 2002 and has never been charged with a crime.  

The profile notes that al-Shamiri “fought in several jihadist theaters and associated with al Qa’ida members in Afghanistan.”

He acknowledged fighting for the Taliban against U.S. forces in 2000 and 2001, the profile added, and also “probably” took training in explosives at a camp in Afghanistan.

“Fragmentary and dated information suggests that [al-Shamiri] was supportive of fighting to protect other Muslims, but not of global jihad, and there are no indications that his views have changed,” it added.

Wednesday’s hearing will help determine whether he should be cleared for transfer from the military facility, which President Obama has pledged to fight to close until his last day in office.

Because he is from Yemen, however, al-Shamiri would not be able to return to his home country. The country is mired in chaos and would be unable to accept Guantanamo detainees, the U.S. has said.  

Still, he “is willing to go to any country that will accept him,” a U.S. official representing al-Shamiri told the review board in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. 

“As he has a large family that has been waiting for his release since his arrival in GTMO, where even the women work outside of the home, he will have family support wherever he is located whether it is emotional, spiritual, or financial,” the official added, using the military acronym for the facility.

While in detention, al-Shamiri has taken English and art classes, the official added, and also learned about carpentry and cooking.

“Mustafa does have remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life,” the official said. “He has vocalized to us that while he cannot change the past, he would definitely have chosen a different path.”

There are currently 107 detainees at the military facility, of whom 48 have been approved for transfer.

The status of Guantanamo Bay has been the focus of new tension of late, amid the White House’s insistence that it will try and close the camp before Obama leaves office.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration rejected an initial plan to close the detention facility, since it would cost up to $600 million.