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Kuwaiti Prisoner Cleared by Periodic Review Board is Released from Guantanamo in Spite of Republican Fear Mongering

Fawzi al-Odah

Kuwaiti prisoner Fawzi Al Odah was released from Guantanamo Bay prison and transferred to Kuwait. Odah was cleared for release by a periodic review board in July and is the first prisoner cleared by the board to be released.

During Odah’s detention, he was a high-profile prisoner whose attorneys fought for rights for all prisoners, especially those being held indefinitely and who had not been charged with committing any crimes.

Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents multiple prisoners at Guantanamo, told Firedoglake Odah’s case was “very important” because of legal challenges he pursued against the United States government’s detention of prisoners at an offshore military base.

“He was one of the very first detainees at Guantanamo to challenge the idea that the US could operate a prison entirely outside the law. His family, his father in particular, was from the very start a very vocal opponent of indefinite detention at Guantanamo, and his father was very active in trying to challenge his detention.”

Odah was brought to Guantanamo in February 2002. His father, Khalid Al-Odah, founded an organization called the Kuwaiti Family Committee in 2004 with relatives of other Kuwaiti prisoners. Through this organization, he campaigned for the release of 12 Kuwaitis and managed to push the US government to release 10 of them prior to his son’s release.

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Kuwaiti Prisoner Cleared by Periodic Review Board Is Released from Guantanamo in Spite of Republican Fear Mongering

Fawzi al-Odah

Kuwaiti prisoner Fawzi Al Odah was released from Guantanamo Bay prison and transferred to Kuwait. Odah was cleared for release by a periodic review board in July and is the first prisoner cleared by the board to be released.

During Odah’s detention, he was a high-profile prisoner whose attorneys fought for rights for all prisoners, especially those being held indefinitely and who had not been charged with committing any crimes.

Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents multiple prisoners at Guantanamo, told Firedoglake Odah’s case was “very important” because of legal challenges he pursued against the United States government’s detention of prisoners at an offshore military base.

“He was one of the very first detainees at Guantanamo to challenge the idea that the US could operate a prison entirely outside the law. His family, his father in particular, was from the very start a very vocal opponent of indefinite detention at Guantanamo, and his father was very active in trying to challenge his detention.”

Odah was brought to Guantanamo in February 2002. His father, Khalid Al-Odah, founded an organization called the Kuwaiti Family Committee in 2004 with relatives of other Kuwaiti prisoners. Through this organization, he campaigned for the release of 12 Kuwaitis and managed to push the US government to release 10 of them prior to his son’s release.

Following victories for Republicans in the midterm elections, Dixon added, “There’s been a lot of fear mongering by members of Congress about transferring any detainees. There’s, in fact, been an effort to stop all transfers from Guantanamo based on wildly over-stated and false concerns about recidivism.”

Odah’s transfer is important because President Barack Obama actually went ahead and released him without fully caving to the rhetoric of Republicans.

In Arkansas, Tom Cotton, who had been a Republican in the House of Representatives, defeated Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor and was elected to the US Senate. He sponsored an amendment to a House defense appropriations bill in June that was intended to block the release of any Guantanamo prisoners for a year. It passed.

“President Obama’s recent exchange of five high-level terrorists without notifying Congress illustrates his blatant disregard for its role as a co-equal branch of government,” Cotton stated after the amendment’s passage. He was referring to the swap of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who won re-election, pledged during his campaign to “shut down the Senate” and engage in a Ted Cruz-style filibuster if Obama tried to finally close the Guantanamo Bay prison by transferring prisoners held on terrorism charges to prisons in the continental US.

What on earth is the man thinking? We have ISIS, we have the world on fire, we’re worried about terrorists coming across the border — that danger according to intelligence sources is very real — and so we’re gonna bring 179 terrorists to the United States? Including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was the godfather of all this? I just think that’s terribly wrongheaded. And the reasons that he cites or that his aides cite in the White House is that it was a campaign promise. That was then, this is now. And now is not the time to bringing 179 terrorists in the United States.

Roberts tried to put the fear in Kansans that terrorists were coming to their state if he was not there in the Senate to stop President Obama. For what it’s worth, it seems to have largely worked, although there is one major problem with his hysterical comments.

Only 149 (now 148) prisoners remained in detention at Guantanamo, not 179. Around eighty of them were cleared for release by President Obama’s review task force, which was comprised of representatives from all the major national security and defense agencies in government.

Dixon suggested that Guantanamo prisoners have nothing to do with ISIS except for the fact that, in videos of ISIS militants “murdering and decapitating Americans and other civilians,” those people are wearing “orange jumpsuits.”

“The language and symbolism of Guantanamo is used as a recruiting tool, used to motivate ISIS fighters,” Dixon said. “People are trying to gain partisan political advantage, to undermine President Obama, by trying to stop transfers, all transfers, at a time when Guantanamo is being used by ISIS to motivate and recruit people to murder Americans.” (more…)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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