The Periodic Review Board heard the case of Abdel Malik Ahmed Wahab Al Rahabi on Tuesday in Guantanamo Bay. It marked the first opportunity Rahabi, whom the Obama administration marked for “continued detention” as early as 2008, has had to present his case for release during his 12 years at Guantanamo Bay Prison. The detainee did not speak during the 19-minute hearing reporters were permitted to see.
Wearing a white T-shirt and a neatly trimmed beard, Rahabi sat with his hands folded in his lap alongside his private counsel, Navy and Air Force personal representatives whose identities are withheld, and translator. Unnamed members of the Periodic Review Board watched the proceedings from an undisclosed location around the area of Washington DC. The review was broadcast to a few members of the press in Arlington, VA., on a closed circuit feed with a 40-second delay.
The hearing was scripted: the presiding officer read out the start time as 9 a.m., even though the hearing began at 9:15 a.m.
Rahabi listened as a member of the 6-person board – pulled from government agencies – read aloud the procedures, saying that the purpose of the hearing was to determine “whether continued law of war detention is warranted” and is “not on the lawfulness of your detention.”
Rahabi has been held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility since January 2002. His Guantanamo detainee profile states he “almost certainly was a member of al-Qa’ida” and that “he fought on the frontlines, was a bodyguard for Osama Bin Ladin, and may have been selected by al-Qa’ida to participate in a hijacking plot.” Rahabi’s attorney David Remes said he and his client “deny all of the government’s allegations.”
None of the men selected for these hearings has been charged with any crimes, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. “The central question is whether they continue to present a lingering threat.”
Representatives for Rahabi attempted to demonstrate the 34-year-old Yemeni does not present a lingering threat. Remes, who has represented Rahabi since 2004, read a prepared statement that was approved by his client. Remes highlighted Rahabi’s compliance with authorities and his work “to ease tensions between camp authorities and detainees.” Remes stated that Rahabi has a “large and supportive family,” including his 13-year-old daughter Ayesha, whom Rahabi has not seen since she was an infant. “His whole family, Ayesha most of all, will keep him firmly anchored at home,” stated Remes. Rahabi smiled broadly when Remes finished reading. Shortly after, the press feed ended; however, the hearing continued behind closed doors for what could be several hours. In that closed door session, the prisoner is permitted to speak. A copy of the proceedings, including the prisoner’s remarks, will eventually be posted on the PRB’s website once all involved parties have had the opportunity to view it and remove what they deem sensitive or confidential.
While Remes’ and the statement from Rahabi’s appointed personal representatives strongly recommend him for release, it is up to the 6-member panel to reach a decision. Once they do, a period of 30 days commences during which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may seek to amend the board’s decision.