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Man held at Guantánamo Bay for 13 years in case of mistaken identity

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri has been detained at the camp without charge.

GUANTANAMO BAY CONGRESS File photo of an an unidentified detainee being escorted by two military guards. Source: HARAZ GHANBARI/AP/Press Association Images

US OFFICIALS AT the Guantánamo Bay detention facility have said man associated with al-Qaeda was held at the camp for 13 years in a case of mistaken identity.

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri has been detained at the camp without charge since 2002.

In documents released to the public this week, the Department of Defence said that it was previously thought that al-Shamiri “was an al-Qaeda facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer”.

We now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to [al-Shamiri's].

He told interrogators at the camp – with whom he was mostly uncooperative with – that he fought in the Yemen’s civil war in 1996 before joining the Taliban in Afghanistan between 2000 and 2001.

Other reports also linked him to fighting in Bosnia in 1995.

The 37-year-old man was appearing before a committee deciding whether or not he could be returned to his native Yemen, the Guardian reports.

“He probably would seek out opportunities to rejoin his family in Sanaa, where AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] and other Sunni extremists frequently conduct operations against the Huthis and the Yemeni Government,” the document reads, before adding that there’s no indication that his family members are involved in terrorism.

He has boasted that he is willing to remain in detention indefinitely, and has expressed no plans for the future apart from a desire to get married and a willingness to work at his family’s shop in Sanaa, Yemen.

However, questions are raised over whether or not he would return to terrorism.

It notes that al-Shamiri has “corresponded with former Guantánamo detainees who would be well-placed to facilitate his re-engagement in terrorism should he chose to return to jihad”.

The document adds that it appears he fought to protect other Muslims, rather than wishing to take part in a global jihad.

Guantánamo Bay was opened in January 2002 under the administration of then-president George W. Bush to deal with prisoners who were termed “enemy combatants” and denied many US legal rights in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Guantanamo Lawless Zone Source: Associated Press

Barack Obama has said that “maintaining this site, year after year, is not consistent with our interests as a nation and undermines our standing in the world”, intending to bring its population to under 100 by early next year.

Obama has repeatedly tried to close the facility — which currently houses 107 inmates — but has been thwarted by opposition in Congress.

The White House has promised to produce a fresh plan soon to transfer the remaining prisoners to foreign countries, or the United States.

Additional reporting by AFP

Read: Guantánamo lawyers banned from bringing detainees fast food and treats >

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