ARLINGTON, Va. (Reuters) - A suspected al Qaeda fighter from Yemen on Tuesday faced a U.S. national security board weighing whether he should remain at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, with his representatives calling for his transfer.
The inmate, Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh, is suspected of fighting for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He has been held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since February 2002.
Jarabh’s hearing before the Periodic Review Board was to re-examine whether he should continue to be held without charge or be transferred back to Yemen or another country.
A statement read by Jarabh’s military representatives said he had studied Spanish and English at Guantanamo, had headed a prison farm planning project and had taken up painting.
Jarabh has strong family support in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia. He is eager to reunite with his family, especially his wife and two daughters, the statement said.
“We believe that Saeed is an ideal candidate for transfer and does not represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” it said.
A Defense Department prisoner profile read at the hearing said Jarabh, who the U.S. military says is 38 or 39, had stayed at al Qaeda guesthouses, received weapons training and had possibly fought in Afghanistan.
The profile said Jarabh had denied joining al Qaeda and had provided no information of value since initial questioning at Guantanamo Bay.
He has kept in contact with a brother, who is likely an al Qaeda member in Yemen. He probably would return to his family if returned to Yemen, the profile said.
About 27 minutes of the hearing was carried on closed-circuit television from Guantanamo Bay to a viewing site near the Pentagon.
The transmission showed Jarabh, with a white skullcap and beard, next to his military representatives and a translator. The national security panel was not shown.
U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to close the internationally condemned prison, which was opened in 2002 to house detainees in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.
The administration moved 28 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in 2014, the most since 2009. The prison holds 122 detainees and 54 of them have been approved for resettlement.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Doina Chiacu