Latest NewsThe Dissenter

Attorneys for Guantanamo ‘Forever Prisoner’ Urge Review Board to Approve Release

Attorneys for Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohammed Kamin asked the Periodic Review Board during a hearing to approve his release.

Kamin is an Afghan who has been detained at the military prison for over eleven years. He is currently not charged with any crime, however, he is one of a number of forever prisoners, who President Barack Obama’s administration has designated for indefinite detention.

In April 2008, Kamin was charged with “material support for terrorism.” A convening authority subsequently withdrew the charge against him 2009, and a federal court later ruled “material support” was not a valid offense triable by a military commission.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration left open the possibility of charging Kamin again later.

The Periodic Review Board consists of representatives from six different United States national security agencies. At hearings, they listen to prisoners, who have never been charged with any crimes, argue why they should be freed.

During an August 18 hearing, Shayana Kadidal, a senior managing attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), reminded the review board [PDF] that Kamin cannot be charged by the military commission. Kadidal noted President Obama has stated America’s “direct involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan” has ended. The legality of his detention is increasingly questionable.

Kadidal also advised the review board that CCR has “special expertise” in the repatriation of former prisoners, and CCR would be able to help Kamin reintegrate into Afghanistan society. CCR attorneys can work with the State Department and “visit clients multiple times after release.” Attorneys can act as a “point of contact,” and provide “financial assistance and referrals for needs ranging from live-in interpreters to mental health care.”

In an unclassified April 2015 profile [PDF], the government concedes Kamin has “expressed non-extremist goals for life after detention.” But the government still maintains he has “links to Afghan militants and to a region that is rife with extremist activity.” Kamin would be “at risk of being drawn back to the fight if he were repatriated.” (Note: It is unclear how any prisoner confined at Guantanamo for more than eleven years could maintain links to any militants on any battlefield in the world.)

The government points out Kamin’s family lives in Khost, Afghanistan, which is apparently considered a “safe haven for al Qaida and other extremists.” Yet, Kamin’s family is not accused of being aligned with al-Qaida so it stands to reason Kamin could return home and avoid helping al-Qaida.

Officials can scarcely articulate a threat, which Kamin might pose eleven years after being captured on the battlefield and brought to Guantanamo.

Kamin, according to his profile, was once “aligned with several extremist groups, including al-Qaida, and helped facilitate their operations against US forces in eastern Afghanistan before Afghan authorities captured him in May 2003.” He is accused of having trained with militant groups and procuring, delivering, and storing weapons for al-Qaida and the Taliban.

However, the government admits all of this alleged evidence against Kamin stems from his own statements and some contradict each other. It is entirely possible certain statements were made to avoid torture. Prisoners, especially under President George W. Bush, were under significant pressure to tell interrogators what they wanted to hear or else they would face increased abuse.

As described by British journalist Andy Worthington, in 2008, Kamin “was not charged with harming, let alone killing US forces, and were it not for his supposed al-Qaeda connection — he apparently stated in interrogation that he was ‘recruited by an al-Qaeda cell leader’ — it would, I think, be impossible to make the case that he was involved in ‘terrorism’ at all.”

A “personal representative” of Kamin informed the review board that Kamin’s tribe and family were “ready to support him upon his return.” Tribal elders and family have written statements for the board in support of his release. Kamin intends to become a grocer, and his uncle will help him pursue this job.

“Our client desires nothing more than to return to life with his extended family, his elderly father, and wife and young son in Afghanistan,” Kadidal explained to the review board. Kamin has respect for his wife, who has stood by him through these years, and he has said he “yearns” to hold his family once again and “tell them, in person, that he loves them.”

After the hearing, Kadidal declared, “If the president is ever to close Guantánamo, he must end the legal limbo in which men like Mr. Kamin are trapped and, once they are cleared, must transfer cleared men without delay. The only way to close the Guantánamo is to reduce the prisoner population to zero.”

Forty-eight prisoners were initially designated by Obama’s review task force as forever prisoners. According to The Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg, this included: “26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, 3 Saudis, 2 Kuwaitis, 2 Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.” In the past few years, the review board has cleared at least three forever prisoners for release.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."