Monday 18 December 2017

Man held at Guantanamo for 13 years 'case of mistaken identity', US admits

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, was a low-level Islamist foot soldier and not an al-Qaeda courier and trainer, whose name had been confused with someone else's

Yemeni Mustafa al Shamiri, right, has been held in Guantanamo for 13 years and six months
Yemeni Mustafa al Shamiri, right, has been held in Guantanamo for 13 years and six months

A Yemeni prisoner at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appears to have been the victim of mistaken identity.

US officials have determined that Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri was a low-level Islamic fighter and not an al-Qaeda courier and trainer as previously believed.

Al-Shamiri appeared Tuesday before a panel assessing whether he can be released. A report put out by the Pentagon says he fought in Afghanistan and associated with members of al-Qaeda. But in the report officials concede they wrongly thought he had a more significant role because he was confused with someone else with a similar name.

“Mustafa Abd-al-Qawi Abd-al-Aziz al-Shamiri (YM-434) fought in several jihadist theaters and associated with al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan,” the unclassified Department of Defense's detainee profile said. “It was previously assessed that YM-434 also was an al-Qaeda facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, but we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to YM-434’s.”

A statement from al-Shamiri’s personal representative described him as very cooperative, enthusiastic and supportive in the preparation for the board hearing. “From the onset, he has demonstrated a consistent positive attitude towards life after Gitmo,” he said. “He has a strong desire to obtain an education in order to provide for a future spouse that his family has already located for him.

“Mustafa will show you today that he is not a continuing significant threat to the United States of America. He is earnestly preparing for his life after Gitmo. During his time in detention, he has attended English and art classes, in addition to acquiring carpentry and cooking skills.

"During the last feast, Mustafa generously took the time to prepare over 30 plates of pastries for his fellow detainees. When I asked him why he would make pastries for his fellow detainees, he said it’s because it makes him feel like he can give back and share with people.”

Al-Shamiri has been held as an enemy combatant without charge at Guantanamo for more than 13 years following his capture in Afghanistan. He is one of 107 prisoners at the base.

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