Empty seat as Saudi prisoner skips Guantanamo review hearing

ARLINGTON, Virginia Mon May 5, 2014 11:44am EDT

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ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - A Saudi inmate suspected of being an al Qaeda recruiter stayed away from a parole-style hearing at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison on Monday because he objects to a body search, leaving the board to face an empty seat.

The inmate, Mohammad al Rahman al Shumrani, 39, a former religion teacher, objects to a guard touching near his genitals, a representative said at the hearing that could lead to his transfer from the prison opened after the September 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks.

"For this detainee, the body search as conducted ... is humiliating and degrading," the uniformed representative read from a statement while seated next to al Shumrani's empty chair. Al Shumrani had no legal counsel present.

The televised Periodic Review Board hearing was to re-examine whether al Shumrani should still be held without charge in the prison that has been criticized by human rights groups and others, or be transferred, possibly home to Saudi Arabia.

The hearing was the sixth by the board designed to facilitate the prison's closing ordered by President Barack Obama.

A Defense Department profile said al Shumrani was a recruiter in Saudi Arabia for Islamic militant groups al Qaeda and the Taliban. He trained with and almost certainly joined both al Qaeda and the Afghanistan-based Taliban, the profile said.

"He repeatedly has told interrogators and other detainees he would re-engage in extremism if he were released from Guantanamo," it said.

Al Shumrani has been at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2002 and has provided little information to interrogators. He has repeatedly broken prison rules and encouraged other inmates not to cooperate with guards, the profile said.

Al Shumrani has not met with his personal representatives because of objections to the search and has also declined dental appointments, said the representative, who was not identified.

He wishes to return to Saudi Arabia to be with his family and is willing to go through a Saudi rehabilitation program.

The closed-circuit television transmission to a viewing room near the Pentagon lasted about 12 minutes. It ended after the profile and statement were read.

About 70 of the 154 prisoners cannot be prosecuted for various reasons, but are considered too dangerous to release.

The Periodic Review Board has determined that two Yemenis are eligible for transfer. The panel has found that a third Yemeni should remain in custody.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Grant McCool)

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