Who’s Left At Guantanamo? Fates Of 61 Prisoners Are Undecided

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BY: Cora Currier 09.09.16

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The last Guantánamo detainee to make the case for his release before a panel of senior administration officials is also the youngest man left at the island prison.

In a hearing Thursday of Guantánamo’s Periodic Review Board, Hassan Ali Bin Attash, a Yemeni who is believed to be about 31 years old, said through representatives that he was working toward a high school GED diploma and hoped to join relatives in Saudi Arabia and find a job as a translator.

Attash’s exact birthdate is uncertain, but he was certainly a young teen in 1997, when the U.S. military alleges that he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and began working for senior al Qaeda figures doing everything from bomb-making to logistics. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and spent the next two years being moved between CIA black-site prisons and interrogations in Afghanistan and Jordan before landing in Guantánamo in September 2004. While in U.S. custody, according to his own and other prisoners’ accounts, he was subjected to sleep deprivation, hung from a bar by his wrists, and threatened with dogs and electric shocks, among other forms of torture. He was also severely tortured by the Jordanians.

The military assessment filed for the board states that in Saudi Arabia, Attash could easily reconnect with terrorist actors, and that his family is also suspect. Attash’s older brother Walid bin Attash is one of the five men being tried before the Guantánamo military commission for the 9/11 attacks.

His lawyer, David Remes, countered that allegation, saying that he has never heard the younger Attash express anti-American or extremist views.

“Now a young man, with a mind of his own, he is no longer under the sway of others and can make independent decisions,” Remes told the board.

As with all hearings before the Periodic Review Board — a sort of parole process for Guantánamo detainees — the proceedings were piped by video from Cuba to media and other observers in a room at the Pentagon. Attash, who has previously been seen in photos in an orange jumpsuit with wild hair, appeared as a neatly groomed young man. Detainees are not allowed to speak during the open portion of the hearing.

Attash’s hearing marks the end of a three-year process in which the Obama administration has reconsidered the cases of many of the last men left at Guantánamo, with the aim of closing the prison before the president leaves office. As of today, all of the detainees who were eligible for a Periodic Review Board hearing have had one.

The final hearing provides an opportunity to look at the 61 men left in Guantánamo and what the administration proposes to do with them.

Who's left at Guantánamo?

Twenty men are now approved for transfer to another country. Seven are currently facing charges at the military commissions, Guantánamo’s war court (this includes the five accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks). One remaining detainee has already been convicted by the war court, and two others pleaded guilty. Another 12, including Hassan Attash, have had their hearing but are still awaiting the board’s decision.