ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - A suspected Osama bin Laden bodyguard held at Guantanamo Bay military prison for 12 years on Thursday faced a U.S. national security board weighing whether he should remain in detention there.
Ali Ahmad al-Razihi, 33, is suspected of having been part of what U.S. intelligence officials called the “Dirty 30” security detail around bin Laden, a founder of al Qaeda who was killed in 2011 by U.S. forces in Pakistan.
Razihi’s hearing before the Periodic Review Board was to re-examine whether he should continue to be held without charge at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba, or be transferred, possibly home to Yemen.
One of the two U.S. military representatives for Razihi read a statement to the panel that said Razihi was focused on returning to Yemen, getting married and helping with the family fruit and vegetable business.
“He is eager to demonstrate to this board in the most straightforward way that he is a peaceful man,” the representative, who was not identified, said via a closed-circuit television transmission from Guantanamo Bay to a viewing site near the Pentagon.
A detainee profile from the Defense Department said Razihi had been a “low threat” to guards but had not provided information about al Qaeda. He has been uncooperative and has avoided interviews since 2010, it said.
If sent back to Yemen, Razihi probably would return to his hometown of Taiz, which has seen modest activity by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an al Qaeda offshoot, the profile said.
The grainy transmission showed the bearded Razihi, who had no legal counsel, wearing a khaki-colored shirt, seated at a table with his uniformed representatives and a translator.
The half-hour transmission ended after the profile and statement were read. The panel was not shown.
Pakistani forces captured Razihi in December 2001 while he fled bin Laden’s hideout at Tora Bora, Afghanistan. He was put in U.S. custody and sent to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.
The Guantanamo Review Task Force recommended in January 2010 that Razihi remain in prison. The group had examined what to do with detainees after President Barack Obama ordered the jail closed.
The hearing is the third by the review board, designed to ease the eventual closing of the prison. About 70 of the 154 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay cannot be prosecuted for various reasons, but are considered too dangerous to release.
The U.S. government could hold them indefinitely without charge under the authorization of military force against al Qaeda and its backers following the September 11, 2001, plane attacks in which nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The board, set up in October, includes the departments of State, Justice and Defense, as well as the military Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.
The Periodic Review Board found after its first hearing that another suspected bin Laden bodyguard, Mahmud Abd al Aziz al Mujahid, was eligible for transfer back to Yemen, the Defense Department said in January.
But the panel said this month that Abdel Malik al Rahabi, also a suspected bin Laden bodyguard from Yemen, should remain in custody at Guantanamo.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson