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Guantanamo prisoner appeals to panel for release

April 8, 2014

MIAMI (AP) — A prisoner held 12 years without charge at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base made his case for release Tuesday in front of a new U.S. government review board.

Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani is the fourth Guantanamo prisoner to appear before the Periodic Review Board, which is reviewing the status of nearly half of the 154 prisoners still held at the U.S. base in Cuba. The reviews began last year as part of President Barack Obama’s renewed effort to close the prison.

The government says al-Bihani underwent terrorist training in Afghanistan and has a history of disciplinary infractions in custody. His lawyer says he was just a cook’s assistant and poses no threat to the U.S.

Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei told the panel his client is seriously ill with diabetes. She says he would welcome resettlement to countries such as Qatar, Spain, Costa Rica or Uruguay or return to his native Yemen. He previously petitioned a civilian court for release but was denied.

Kebriaiei said in a videotaped statement before the hearing that he was looking forward to his chance to speak to the panel, which includes representatives of the military, State Department and the director of national intelligence.

“He will have a chance to talk directly to the government about why he should be released, about his hopes for the future, why his continued detention further into a second decade is unnecessary and unjust and should end,” she said.

The panel, meeting in Washington, heard from the prisoner at Guantanamo by video link.

Journalists in a separate location in the Washington area were permitted to listen to an opening statement from the prisoner’s lawyer as well as from a member of the military designated as his personal representative. Under security rules, they were not allowed to hear a statement from al-Bihani or any questioning by the panel.

So far, the Periodic Review has announced decisions in two cases, re-classifying one prisoner as eligible for release and designation another for continued detention. The government did not say when a decision would be announced on al-Bihani.

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