Saudi Imprisoned for Fourteen Years at Guantanamo is Released
A Saudi captive imprisoned at Guantanamo for fourteen years, Muhammed Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shamrani, was released into the custody of Saudi Arabian government for “rehabilitation.” He was cleared for release by a Periodic Review Board in September of last year.
Shamrani was captured by the United States military when he was 26 years old. He told the Board he fought with the Taliban against Northern Alliance forces. He withdrew from the Bagram area to Pakistan, where the Pakistan Army captured him. He was handed over to the U.S. military, sent to a prison in Kandahar, and became part of the first group of men sent to Guantanamo.
While the Periodic Review Board still had concerns about what they referred to as Shamrani’s “past terrorist-related activities,” the Board determined [PDF] the “threat” he posed could be “adequately mitigated by Saudi Arabia.”
The Board expressed “confidence in the efficacy of the Saudi rehabilitation program and Saudi Arabia’s ability to monitor the detainee after completion of the program and found the detainee credible on his desire to participate in the program.”
Additionally, the Board believed Shamrani had a “strong desire” to “receive guidance from the clerics at the rehabilitation center about Islam” and was willing to “submit to the authority of the Saudi government.” He was “candid with the Board” about his “presence on the battlefield and worldview,” and “articulated a commitment to fulfilling his role within his family over taking up arms or continuing to engage in jihad.”
However, despite allegations about “past terrorist-related activities,” Shamrani was never charged with committing any terrorism offenses.
President Barack Obama created a task force in 2009 to review the cases of individuals still imprisoned at Guantanamo. Shamrani was in a third group—”forever prisoners—people who the government determined could not be charged with a crime but who were considered too dangerous to be released.
As Shamrani languished in the U.S. military prison [PDF], his father died about a decade ago. His family did not tell Shamrani for eight years. His mother is an elderly woman and ill. Shamrani expressed eagerness to return home so he could care for his mother.
In 2014, the military accused Shamrani of remaining “committed to supporting extremist causes” and inciting “other detainees against the detention staff.” The military alleged he would reengage with “terrorist activity” if released and that he was following “news” of the Islamic State’s “growing strength in Iraq and Syria with apparent interest.”
Whether this “apparent interest” stemmed from sympathy for the Islamic State was not made clear by the military. It seemed to be the implication—a detainee who follows news about the rise of the Islamic State, like numerous individuals around the world including government officials, is dangerous, especially because he once fought in a war on a battlefield.
Shamrani told the Board in August, “I am held here without charges being brought against me, without fair trial, and without basic rights, which preserve human dignity.”
Like a number of captives, Shamrani expressed outrage over the genital searches he had to go through each time he wanted to meet with legal counsel. He even skipped his first Periodic Review Board hearing in 2014 because he did not want to be humiliated and degraded—and in a manner which violated his religious beliefs as a Muslim.
The Obama administration has defended the practice of genital searches at Guantanamo in a U.S. court, despite the fact that a federal judge once deemed “searching the genitals” of captives “up to four times for every phone call or attorney–client meeting” was “excessive.”
Shamrani plans to marry and live with his family so he does not have to leave his mother’s side, since she is now in need of such urgent care. He also “trusts” the religious scholars of the Mohammed Bin Nayef Center in Saudi Arabia, where he will be “rehabilitated,” and he hopes that may lead to an opportunity to go to school and continue his education.