Transfers, Releases & Resettlements

PRB Recommends Repatriation for One Saudi Detainee, Continued Detention for Another

By Alex Ely
Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 2:56 PM

Yesterday the Periodic Review Board recommended the repatriation of Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, a Saudi detainee who has been held in Guantanamo for 12 years after being captured in Afghanistan in 2002.

The Board's short statement concluded that given the “uncorroborated nature” of Zahrani’s association with Al Qaeda, his lack of ties to at-large extremists, and his apparent good behavior while in detention---along with his expressed desire to pursue a peaceful life after Guantanamo---detention was "no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the United States." Instead, the Board wrote, release and reparation to Saudi Arabia was appropriate. The Board also expressed confidence in the Saudi rehabilitation program, and highlighted Zahrani’s intent to participate in that program upon his return to his home country.

(A more detailed profile of Zahrani, which includes the circumstances giving rise to his capture in Afghanistan and his behavior while in detention, was declassified this past April.)

However, the Board also found that continued detention would be necessary in the case of Mohammed al Rahman al Shumrani, another Saudi national. The government had described him in a previously declassified report as “a problematic and unpredictable detainee throughout his incarceration at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility” who had “committed several significant disciplinary infractions and used his authority as a religious leader to encourage other detainees not to cooperate with detention staff.” In that declassified report, from February 2014, the government said that Shumrani had “told interrogators and other detainees he would reengage in extremism if he were released from Guantanamo.”

In it’s brief announcement denying Shumrani’s repatriation, the government reiterated that Shumrani had been engaged in  “problematic and unpredictable behavior” while in detention, and that the “Board had difficulty assessing the detainee's current mindset due to his decision not to participate in the hearing.” The Board also said that it would review Shumrani’s file in six months, and would welcome participation from any representatives from Saudi Arabia.