WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A suspected Osama
bin Laden bodyguard held at Guantanamo Bay military prison for 12 years
is due to face a U.S. national security board on Thursday that will
weigh whether he should remain jailed there.
Ali Ahmad al-Razihi, a 33-year-old Yemeni, is suspected of once
being part of what U.S. intelligence officials called the "Dirty 30"
security detail around bin Laden, a founder of al Qaeda who was
killed in May 2011 by U.S. forces at his hideout in Pakistan.
Razihi's hearing before the Periodic Review Board will re-examine
whether he should be held without charge at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S.
military prison in Cuba, or be transferred, possibly to Yemen.
A U.S. military representative for Razihi said in an online
statement to the panel late on Wednesday that Razihi was focused on
returning to Yemen, helping with the family business and marrying.
"He is eager to demonstrate to this board in the most
straightforward way that he is a peaceful man," the statement said.
The hearing is the third by the review board, designed to ease the
eventual closing of the prison. About 70 of the 154 prisoners at
Guantanamo Bay cannot be prosecuted for various reasons but are
considered too dangerous to release.
The U.S. government could hold them indefinitely without charge
under the authorization of military force against al Qaeda and its
backers following the September 11, 2001, plane attacks in which
nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York, Washington, D.C., and
Pakistani forces captured Razihi in December 2001 while he fled bin
Laden's hideout at Tora Bora, Afghanistan. He was put in U.S.
custody and sent to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.
The Guantanamo Review Task Force recommended in January 2010 that
Razihi remain in prison. The group had examined what to do with
detainees after President Barack Obama ordered the jail closed.
The hearing will be held at Guantanamo Bay and transmitted by
closed-circuit television to a viewing site for reporters and
observers near the Pentagon.
The board, set up in October, has representatives from across the
national security establishment. It includes the departments of
state, justice and defense, as well as the military Joint Chiefs of
Staff and the director of national intelligence.
Zeke Johnson, head of the security and human rights program for
Amnesty International USA, said determining whether Razihi should be
held or released should be done through a fair trial.
"That's not what this is, at all," Johnson said. "This person hasn't
even ever been charged with a crime, let alone convicted."
Amnesty International will not attend the hearing.
The Periodic Review Board found after its first hearing that another
suspected bin Laden bodyguard from Yemen, Mahmud Abd al Aziz al
Mujahid, was eligible for transfer to Yemen, the Defense Department
said in January. But the panel said this month that Abdel Malik al
Rahabi, another suspected bin Laden bodyguard from Yemen, should
remain in custody at Guantanamo.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)