News / Middle East

Frustration Mounts, as Yemeni Detainees Languish in Guantanamo

Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2009 file photo)
Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2009 file photo)
Heather Murdock

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama said the prison at Guantanamo Bay would be closed before the end of January, 2010.  Three months after the deadline, families of Yemeni detainees, which make up about half of the prisoners held in Guantanamo, are hopeless and angry.  

It has been eight and a half years since Bashir Nasser disappeared in Pakistan.  His family says he left Yemen to go back to school where he was working towards an advanced degree in nursing.  Four months after he left Yemen they got a letter from the Red Cross.  Bashir was in Guantanamo.

Bashir's younger brother, Bessam, says he does not really know how his brother is doing because prisoners are not allowed to tell their families about the conditions in Guantanamo.  

As far as Bessam knows, his brother has never been charged with a crime.

About half of the remaining 200 detainees in Guantanamo are Yemenis.  In January, after reports that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas bomber, was trained and armed in Yemen, U.S. officials said the already-scheduled release of many of the Yemeni prisoners would be delayed indefinitely.

Reports of increasing numbers of former Guantanamo prisoners traveling to Yemen to fight with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula complicate the matter.  Saeed al-Shehri, a former Guantanamo prisoner was released to a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia in 2007.  He is now believed to be leading al-Qaida's operations in Yemen with several other former detainees.

But activists say keeping Yemeni prisoners in Cuba without charges is strengthening anti-Western sentiment in Yemen.  Khaled Alansi, the director of HOOD, a Yemeni human-rights organization, says the families of the detainees were crushed when the deadline for closing Guantanamo came and went without the return of their family members.

Alansi also says it is not just U.S. security concerns that have prevented prisoner return.  He says Guantanamo prisoners are also a pawn in a political and financial game between the United States and Yemen.  

He says when the United States offered to return prisoners last year, Yemen responded by demanding funding for a rehabilitation center.  

"The Yemeni government uses terrorism and fighting terrorism as a tool to get political and financial benefit," said Khaled Alansi. "They did not have anything to market themselves to the world, especially the United States, except fighting terrorism."

Like Alansi, Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, also says most of the Guantanamo detainees were arrested without evidence against them.  

But other U.S. officials warn some of the prisoners are too dangerous to release, and say that because they are being held as enemy combatants, they can legally remain in U.S. custody for the duration of the "War on Terror."

Some Yemeni officials say this "war" may never be truly over.  Abdul Karim al-Iryani, a former prime minister, says the detainees should be returned to Yemen, and, if there is evidence against them, tried in Yemeni courts.

"You can never tell how anybody will behave after such enduring of suffering," said Abdul Karim al-Iryani. "Some people come out of suffering and behave well, some people come out more extremist.  But is that a good excuse to keep them in jail forever?  Is that justice or injustice?"

For years friends and families of Yemeni detainees have staged protests and solicited help from lawyers.  But despite repeated promises for his safe return, Bashir's friends say their efforts have only gotten them in trouble.

Bessam says another one of his brothers and one of their friends were sentenced to 10 years in prison, after threatening to turn their peaceful protest movement violent.  If his brother stays in Guantanamo, and Bessam continues speaking out against the detention - even without the threats - Bessam says he fully expects to be arrested too.   

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid