Hotel Guantanamo: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave
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Imagine if you were imprisoned for seven years without charge or trial, and then a judge ruled that the government’s case against you consisted solely of unreliable allegations made by other prisoners who were tortured, coerced, bribed or suffering from mental health issues, and a "mosaic" of intelligence, purporting to rise to the level of evidence, which actually relied, to an intolerable degree, on second- or third-hand hearsay, guilt by association and unsupportable suppositions, and stated that the government "should take all necessary diplomatic steps to facilitate" your release.
Now imagine that, instead of being freed, you continued to be held because the government refused to send you home, stating that it would not release you unless you first passed through a rehabilitation center in your home country, or, preferably, in a third country.
You would, I think, be pretty depressed about your situation, and would conclude that the United States' much-vaunted justice system was a farce. And yet, this is exactly the problem that currently faces Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed , a Yemeni prisoner in Guantánamo, whose habeas corpus petition was granted in May by Judge Gladys Kessler.
On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that, although "The government's deadline for appealing Ahmed's release has run out," he continues to be held because the of the government’s refusal to send him home without first putting him through a rehabilitation center, preferably in Saudi Arabia, which, unlike its impoverished neighbor, has established rehabilitation centers that have processed thousands of former and would-be jihadists in the last few years, including dozens of Saudi prisoners repatriated from Guantánamo (some of whom, it should be noted, were not in Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, but had visited as missionaries or charity workers).
In the AP’s report, the U.S. government's refusal to free Ali Ahmed outright was dressed up as part of a wider policy on the government's part to put an unspecified number of the remaining 100 or so Yemeni prisoners, "who officials say probably will be freed," through a rehabilitation center "before they are released to make sure they pose no threat to Americans."
However, in the case of Ali Ahmed, and two other Yemeni prisoners -- Yasim Basardah , whose habeas petition was granted in March, and Ayman Batarfi , a doctor whose release was approved by the government's own Detention Policy Task Force at the same time -- this makes no sense, as either the courts or the government itself have already concluded that they "pose no threat to Americans."
These cases are not the only examples of inexplicable obstruction on the part of the administration. Although 15 other prisoners cleared by the courts -- 13 Uighurs , Sabir Lahmar , an Algerian, and Abdul Rahim al-Ginco , a Syrian -- are awaiting new homes, because of fears that they will face torture -- or worse -- if returned to their homelands, the government has also approved "more than 50" other prisoners for release, after their cases were reviewed by the inter-departmental Detention Policy Task Force ( established by Executive Order on Obama's second day in office), which, as ABC News explained , has, for the last six months, involved 65 representatives "from agencies like the FBI, Pentagon, the CIA, and attorneys from the Justice Department" meeting up once a week "on a secure floor within a secure facility to discuss the review."
Sadly, in a demonstration of the executive secrecy that was such a hallmark of the Bush administration, officials in the Obama administration have not revealed the identities of any of these men (other than Ayman Batarfi, Binyam Mohamed , the British resident who was hastily released in February to avoid a Transatlantic torture scandal , and Umar Abdulayev , a Tajik, cleared in June, who was seized by opportunistic Pakistani intelligence agents from a refugee camp), but it seems, from the limited information made available -- rumors that three Tunisians will be transferred to Italy and that some Tunisians and Algerians will be rehoused in Spain , and the recent news that Belgium will take some prisoners and Ireland will accept two Uzbeks -- that the decisions on who to release correspond broadly with those made by military review boards at Guantánamo under the Bush administration.