Montenegro Takes in Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner

By Dusica Tomovic

Guantanamo captives wait during processing on January 2002. Photo: Wikimedia/The US Department of Defence.

A Yemeni man who had been held at the US military prison at Guantanamo for 14 years has been transferred to Montenegro, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The transfer of Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab Al Rahabi now leaves 79 detainees remaining at the US naval base in Cuba, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Al-Rahabi, 37, who was brought to Guantanamo in January 2002, had been accused of being a bodyguard for the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon documents.

Another Pentagon file said he traveled from Yemen to Afghanistan where he “almost certainly” became a member of al-Qaeda.

However, he has never faced any charges.

A US review board found in December 2014 that Al Rahabi was no longer a significant security threat to the United States and recommended his transfer, the Pentagon said.

However, due to the civil war raging in Yemen, he could not be released to his homeland and another country had to be found to accept him.

Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi. Photo: DefenceNews.

“The United States is grateful to the Government of Montenegro for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the Pentagon said.

Montenegro now joins other US friends and allies in Europe in accepting multiple detainees for resettlement, bringing us closer to our shared goal of closing the facility,” Lee Wolosky, special envoy for Guantanamo closure at the State Department, said.

More than 50 countries have so far accepted inmates from the detention centre.

US media quoted David Remes, Al-Rahabi’s lawyer, as saying that his client was excited to be reunited with his wife and daughter.

“He’s been waiting for this for a long time,” Remes said.

Quoting the Pentagon’s leaked threat assessment for April 2008, the US portal Defense News said Al Rahabi may have been selected to participate in a canceled part of Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, hijacking plot.

He was also reportedly related to the al-Qaeda founder Bin Laden “by marriage”.

The leaked files said Al Rahabi was one of several al-Qaeda members “designated as suicide operatives in a plot to hijack US air carriers traveling across Southeast Asia and destroy them”.

In a press release late on Wednesday, the Montenegrin government said it accepted the responsibility for “re-socialisation of another prisoner and his return to his family” as a part of a humanitarian programme launched by the US with the aim of closing the base in Guantanamo.

In January, Montenegro agreed to take on the responsibility of resocialisation of another Yemeni citizen, Abd al-Aziz Abduh Abdallah Ali Al-Suwaydi.

He was an al-Qaeda member who was identified as an explosives trainer. After fleeing Afghanistan, he was captured trying to return to Yemen. He was placed in Guantanamo in May 2002.

According to the assessment of US and Montenegrin security services, the government said, those persons do not pose any security or other threat to Montenegro.

“Prior to the persons’ transfer to third countries, their behavior and criminal liability are subjects of security assessment and detailed evaluation, according to which the decision on the transfer is made,” the government explained.

The press release said that the ex-prisoner “is in a regular procedure envisaged by the Law on Asylum” and under the regime of subsidiary protection and the cost of his stay in the country “would not be paid for by Montenegrin taxpayers”.


Originally published at www.balkaninsight.com on June 23, 2016.

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