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Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”

9/15/2010 By Andy Worthington

This is the first part of an eight-part series telling the stories of all the prisoners currently held in Guantánamo (176 at the time of writing). See the introduction here, and Part Two and Part Three.

 

The 20 prisoners listed below were the first group of prisoners seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001. They have been identified as the “Dirty Thirty,” because of allegations that they served as bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, although these allegations have long been challenged by the prisoners and their attorneys, and by those who have studied the stories in detail, for three reasons: firstly, because the majority of the men had been in Afghanistan for such a short amount of time that it is inconceivable that they would have been trusted with such an important role; secondly, because one source of the allegations is Mohammed al-Qahtani (ISN 063, see below), who was tortured at Guantánamo, and who later withdrew his false allegations; and thirdly, because two other sources of the allegations are Sharqwi Abdu Ali al-Hajj and Sanad Yislam Ali al-Kazimi (ISN 1457 and ISN 1453), whose false confessions were recently exposed in a US court, in the habeas corpus petition of Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (ISN 027, see below).

Moreover, as the figures indicate, ten of the “Dirty Thirty” have already been released, and although some were Saudis, there are no indications that any of them have returned to militant activity (unlike others — 11 in total — who, according to reports in February 2009, had “left the country and joined terrorist groups abroad”). In fact, the most significant story, out of all the released prisoners, seems to be that of Farouq Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni released in December 2009, who maintained throughout his detention that he was a missionary, despite counter-claims that he was a bodyguard for bin Laden, and that he had been seen at Osama bin Laden’s private airport in Kandahar, where he was “wearing camouflage and carrying an AK-47.”

As I explained in 2007, this particular allegation proved so intolerable to Ahmed that his Personal Representative (a military officer assigned to the prisoners in place of a lawyer during the tribunals at Guantánamo in 2004-05) investigated his files, and submitted a written protest, in which he stated that the government’s sole evidence that Ahmed had been at bin Laden’s airport was the statement of another prisoner, who, according to an FBI memo that he presented to the tribunal, was a notorious liar. According to the FBI, he “had lied, not only about Farouq, but about other Yemeni detainees as well. The other detainee claimed he had seen the Yemenis at times and in places where they simply could not have been.” As the Personal representative discovered, after cross-referencing the detainees’ files, this particular man had made false allegations against 60 of his fellow prisoners.

Bearing this in mind, an analysis of the 20 remaining members of the so-called “Dirty Thirty” reveals that only three have been subjected to any kind of serious allegations relating to their involvement with al-Qaeda, although it is certain that, of the rest, some are among the 26 Yemenis that, in January, the Obama administration’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force recommended should continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

ISN 026 Ghazi, Fahed (Yemen)

As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, Ghazi, who was cleared for release by a military review board under President Bush, was just 19 years old at the time of his capture, according to US military records, and was apparently at al-Farouq (the main training camp for Arabs in Afghanistan, associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before 9/11) for just nine days before the camp closed. According to Human Rights Watch, he was just 17 years old when he was seized. Human Rights Watch also noted, “His daughter, who was two months old at the time of Ghazi’s arrest, is now eight years old. The two reportedly send drawings back and forth to each other regularly.” Also see this letter that he submitted to his military review board in September 2006.

ISN 027 Uthman, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed (Yemen)

Uthman, who “said that he had traveled between Kabul and Khost teaching the Koran from March to December 2001.” won his habeas corpus petition in February 2010, when Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ruled that the main allegation against him — that he had “acted as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden” — came from unreliable statements made by two other prisoners, Sharqwi Abdu Ali al-Hajj (ISN 1457) and Sanad Yislam Ali al-Kazimi (ISN 1453). Judge Kennedy stated, “The Court will not rely on the statements of Hajj or Kazimi because there is unrebutted evidence in the record that, at the time of the interrogations at which they made the statements, both men had recently been tortured.” The government has appealed the ruling.

ISN 028 Al Alawi, Muaz (Yemen)

Al-Alawi lost his habeas corpus petition in January 2009, when Judge Richard Leon ruled that he “was part of or supporting Taliban or al-Qaeda forces,” because he “stayed at guest houses associated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda … received military training at two separate camps closely associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban and supported Taliban fighting forces on two different fronts in the Taliban’s war against the Northern Alliance.” Although none of the allegations above related to “hostilities against the US or its coalition partners,” and Judge Leon acknowledged that al-Alawi was in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, and was fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, he endorsed the government’s additional claim that, “rather than leave his Taliban unit in the aftermath of September 11, 2001,” al-Alawi “stayed with it until after the United States initiated Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001; fleeing to Khost and then to Pakistan only after his unit was subjected to two-to-three US bombing runs.”

ISN 029 Al Ansi, Muhammad (Yemen)

Al-Ansi has stated that he and some friends taught the Koran in a village outside Khost, although the authorities claim, via allegations made by unidentified individuals, by an “al-Qaeda commander,” and by an “al-Qaeda operative,” that he was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, that he was present at Tora Bora, and that he also guarded bin Laden at his airport in Kandahar. Al-Ansi was so disturbed by the allegations against him that he told his review board, “All of the prisoners here are trying to leave this place. All the prisoners are telling lies about other prisoners just to get out of here. All these allegations are lies and I want the truth.”

ISN 030 Al Hikimi, Ahmed (Yemen)

Al-Hikimi has stated that, after selling his taxi business, he traveled to Khost, where he met a local student with whom he spent about eight months teaching in various villages, and then returned to the Yemen, traveling again in February 2001, when, he said, he hooked up with the student once more and resumed teaching. In contrast to these claims, he was subjected to allegations similar to those leveled against Muhammad al-Ansi. An “al-Qaeda operative” claimed to have seen him at the al-Farouq camp and in Kabul in 1999, and said that he “would drive from the front line to the mountains once a week to supply food to the brothers.” Other unnamed sources also identified him as a driver, and “an escort for Osama bin Laden and his family” said that he saw him fighting on the front lines against the Northern Alliance. Crucially, another anonymous source identified him “as an associate of the Kandahar Airport Group” — the same false allegation that was leveled against Farouq Ali Ahmed.

ISN 031 Al Mujahid, Mahmoud (Yemen)

As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, al-Mujahid stated that he was inspired to visit Afghanistan to teach the Koran by a sheikh at whose institute he was studying. In contrast, the US authorities alleged that he was a bodyguard for bin Laden, that he was “seen on the front lines,” and that he was “seen with Osama bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan (April 2001) and Tora Bora (November 2001).” In November 2007, he attended a military review board, in which he declared that he had made up the story about the sheikh, when he was first interrogated in US custody in Pakistan, and added that he wanted to explain this to the board, as it had been on his mind for five years, but he had been unable to discuss it with his interrogators, because they were “stupid” and only gave him “bad treatment.” In the hearing, he admitted that he had arrived in Afghanistan in July 2000, but “strongly denied” knowing anything about the 9/11 attacks or any other terrorists attacks, and also dismissed as ridiculous the notion that he could have been become a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

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Article submitted by Teri Perticone

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