No end in sight for Guantanamo after ‘bad dudes’ vow

By Owen Bennett-Jones, Dawn/ ANN

Pakistan — Donald Trump says he wants to be unpredictable. But with the inauguration over, there is one group that can be certain that having Mr. Trump in the White House will make a big difference to their lives — the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay. A few weeks ago, Trump tweeted that there should be no further releases from Guantanamo. “These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” he said. He has even vowed to “load up” the facility “with some bad dudes” once he is in the White House. For his part, President Obama moved some prisoners out before his term of office ended. Four Yemenis were released in the first week of January and 10 more were moved to Oman on January 16. There are now 45 inmates remaining. Of the 72 Pakistanis sent to the detention center since it was opened in 2002, 66 have been transferred out. Of the remaining six Pakistanis, three are categorized as high-value targets. The best known of the three is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who has been charged with war crimes, as has Abd Al Aziz Ali (also known as Ammar Al Baluchi). The third high-value target from Pakistan, Majid Khan, pleaded guilty to war crimes and was consequently convicted in the Military Commissions System amidst speculation that he would receive a reduced sentence in return for testifying against other “high-value” detainees. Majid Khan was picked up in Karachi on March 5, 2003. According to a leaked 2008 U.S. assessment largely based on confessional evidence, he had been a Tablighi missionary and was recruited to violent jihad by Pakistani relatives who were members of Al Qaidaand who knew Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. The U.S. documents claim that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad persuaded Majid Khan to go back to the U.S. to plan attacks on gas stations and water reservoirs. Majid Khan has given detailed accounts of how he was tortured by the U.S.. He has also apologized for his actions.

Three Other Pakistanis That leaves three other Pakistanis still in Guantanamo. Although they have not been designated high-value targets, in 2016 all three were told that their period of detention had been extended. Despite this, they could have reasonably expected that, if Hillary Clinton were being inaugurated, their chances of release would have improved. Clinton was expected to follow Obama’s policy of gradually clearing prisoners for transfer to third countries, subject to security guarantees.

The oldest of the three is 69-year-old Saifullah Paracha. After obtaining a physics degree in Karachi, he attended the New York Institute of Technology where he studied computer systems analysis. Saifullah Paracha — who has said he did meet Bin Laden but denies involvement in violent jihad — has been held for 12 years and three months. In April 2016, the U.S. refused to release him on the grounds that he still posed a threat.

The two remaining Pakistani detainees are the brothers Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Mohammed Ahmed Rabbani. The latter’s case has raised issues as to how dangerous some of the remaining detainees are. According to the U.S., he met Osama bin Laden in 1997 and became a travel facilitator for al Qaida working directly for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.