Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani

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Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani
ISN 00713, Mohammed Muti-Zahran.jpg
Zahrani's official identity portrait
Born 1969 (age 47–48)
Ta'if, Saudi Arabia
Released 2014-11-22
Saudi Arabia
Citizenship Saudi Arabia
Detained at Guantanamo
ISN 713
Charge(s) no charge, extrajudicial detention
Status transferred on 2014-11-22

Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani is a citizen of Saudi Arabia who was held in the United States's Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba from August 5, 2002, until November 22, 2014.[1][2][3][4] His Guantanamo Internment Serial Number is 713. Joint Task Force Guantanamo counter-terrorism analysts estimate he was born in 1969, in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Zahrani was the thirteenth captive to be released or transferred in 2014, and the seventh to be released or transferred in November, 2014.[4] His transfer stirred controversy because he had been characterized as a "forever prisoner", one too innocent to be charged with a war crime, who was also considered too dangerous to release.[5]

Official status reviews[edit]

Originally the Bush Presidency asserted that captives apprehended in the "war on terror" were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, and could be held indefinitely, without charge, and without an open and transparent review of the justifications for their detention.[6] In 2004 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that Guantanamo captives were entitled to being informed of the allegations justifying their detention, and were entitled to try to refute them.

Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants[edit]

Following the Supreme Court's ruling the Department of Defense set up the Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants.[6]

Scholars at the Brookings Institution, led by Benjamin Wittes, listed the captives still held in Guantanamo in December 2008, according to whether their detention was justified by certain common allegations:[7]

  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who the military alleges were members of either al Qaeda or the Taliban and associated with the other group.[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who "The military alleges ... traveled to Afghanistan for jihad."[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who "The military alleges that the following detainees stayed in Al Qaeda, Taliban or other guest- or safehouses."[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who "The military alleges ... took military or terrorist training in Afghanistan."[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who "The military alleges ... fought for the Taliban."[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the captives who was a member of the "al Qaeda leadership cadre".[7]
  • Muhammed Murdi Issa Al Zahrani was listed as one of the "82 detainees made no statement to CSRT or ARB tribunals or made statements that do not bear materially on the military’s allegations against them."[7]

Salam Abdullah Said v. George W. Bush[edit]

Mohammed Zahrani was one of five Saudi who had a petition of habeas corpus filed on their behalf December 13, 2005, in Salam Abdullah Said v. George W. Bush.[8][9] In September 2007 the Department of Justice published dossiers of unclassified documents arising from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals of 179 captives.[10] Mohammed Zahrani's documents were not among those the Department of Defense published.

On June 10, 2006 the Department of Defense reported that three captives died in custody. The Department of Defense stated the three men committed suicide. Camp authorities called the deaths "an act of asymmetric warfare", and suspected plans had been coordinated by the captive's attorneys—so they seized all the captives' documents, including the captives' copies of their habeas documents.[8] Since the habeas documents were privileged lawyer-client communication the Department of Justice was compelled to file documents about the document seizures.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 mandated that Guantanamo captives were no longer entitled to access the US civil justice system, so all outstanding habeas corpus petitions were stayed.

On June 12, 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Boumediene v. Bush, that the Military Commissions Act could not remove the right for Guantanamo captives to access the US Federal Court system. And all previous Guantanamo captives' habeas petitions were eligible to be re-instated.

On July 18, 2008 David W. DeBruin filed a renewal for the habeas corpus of two of the five captives in Said v. Bush. The petition stated that three of the captives had been repatriated.[9] Mohammed Zahrani and Saad Al Qahtani were listed as captives who were still in detention in Guantanamo, who were requesting having their habeas petition re-instated.

Saudi Arabian captives had represented the largest group of foreigners apprehended in Afghanistan and transported to Guantanamo. But, by the end of 2007 almost all the Saudis had been sent home.

Formerly secret Joint Task Force Guantanamo assessment[edit]

On April 25, 2011, whistleblower organization WikiLeaks published formerly secret assessments drafted by Joint Task Force Guantanamo analysts.[11][12] His assessment was ten pages long, and was drafted on July 4, 2008.[13] His assessment was signed by Rear Admiral David M. Thomas, the camp commandant. It asserted his was a high risk to the USA, and recommended his continued detention.

Guantanamo Review Task Force[edit]

On January 22, 2009, shortly after he took office, President Barack Obama issued three executive orders directed at the detention of captives at Guantanamo. He created a new review procedure, the Guantanamo Joint Review Task Force. Where the officials reviewing captives' status for OARDEC were all military officers, the officials on the new task force were drawn from several government departments. The task force determined Zahrani was too dangerous to release, but too innocent to face charges—the press characterized him as a "forever prisoner".

Period Review Board[edit]

President Obama's executive orders promised that the status would be reviewed periodically, to determine if they were still too dangerous to release.[14][15][16][17][18] But the first periodic review wasn't convened until late 2013.[19][20] Al Zahrani had a periodic review scheduled for 2014. His Board took months to publish its recommendation.[21] On October 21, 2014 the Board's recommendation that Al Zahrani be transferred to Saudi Arabia was made public.

Carol Rosenberg, writing in the Miami Herald, noted that his board characterized him as less dangerous than the "Taliban five"—five former Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo in a trade for GI Bowe Bergdahl.[5]

Lawfare noted that the justifications for Al Zahrani's release included that the allegations used to justify his detention had never been corroborated.[21] Other justifications included that Al Zahrani had been a well-behaved captive, and had a plan for his peaceful reintegration into the mainstream of Saudi society.

The Associated Press noted that another factor in the recommendation to transfer Al Zahrani to Saudi Arabia was his willingness to enter in the Saudi rehabilitation program.[22]


  1. ^ "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-05-15.  Works related to List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006 at Wikisource
  2. ^ "Detainee Transfer Announced". Department of Defense. 2014-11-22. Archived from the original on 2014-11-23. The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Muhammed Murdi Issa Al-Zahrani from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 
  3. ^ Margot Williams (2008-11-03). "Guantanamo Docket: Muhammed Murdi Issa al Zahrani". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ a b Carol Rosenberg (2014-11-22). "Saudi Arabia fetches former 'forever prisoner' from Guantanamo". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2014-11-22. 
  5. ^ a b Carol Rosenberg (2014-10-21). "Guantánamo board says Saudi captive can go home". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2014-10-21. Retrieved 2014-11-23. Muhammed Zahrani, 45, got to Guantánamo in August 2002 and was until this month held as an indefinite detainee, without charge or eligible for release, a “forever prisoner.” The Periodic Review Board announced Monday he was eligible for repatriation to his native Saudi Arabia, raising to 80 the number of men approved for transfer from the remote prison holding 149 detainees. 
  6. ^ a b "U.S. military reviews 'enemy combatant' use". USA Today. 2007-10-11. Archived from the original on 2012-08-11. Critics called it an overdue acknowledgment that the so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunals are unfairly geared toward labeling detainees the enemy, even when they pose little danger. Simply redoing the tribunals won't fix the problem, they said, because the system still allows coerced evidence and denies detainees legal representation. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Benjamin Wittes, Zaathira Wyne (2008-12-16). "The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study" (PDF). The Brookings Institution. Retrieved 2010-02-16.  mirror
  8. ^ a b "Respondents' response to Court's August 7, 2006 order" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. August 15, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-27. Retrieved 2008-06-23.  mirror
  9. ^ a b "Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation: Doc 139 -- Civil Action No. 05-CV-2384 (RWR) STATUS REPORT REGARDING SAID V. BUSH" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  10. ^ OARDEC (August 8, 2007). "Index for CSRT Records Publicly Files in Guantanamo Detainee Cases" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  11. ^ Christopher Hope; Robert Winnett; Holly Watt; Heidi Blake (2011-04-27). "WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed -- Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose". The Telegraph (UK). Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13. The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website. 
  12. ^ "WikiLeaks: The Guantánamo files database". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  13. ^ "Muhammad Murdi Issa Al Zahrani: Guantanamo Bay detainee file on Muhammad Murdi Issa Al Zahrani, US9SA-000713DP, passed to the Telegraph by Wikileaks". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 2014-11-23. Retrieved 2014-11-24. 
  14. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2013-07-21). "Pentagon prepares review panels for 71 Guantánamo detainees". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2013-08-22. Retrieved 2014-02-03. The disclosure followed a flurry of emails sent after 10 p.m. Friday by Pentagon bureaucrats notifying attorneys for some of the 71 captives that preparations were underway to hold the so-called Periodic Review Boards ordered by President Barack Obama years ago. 
  15. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2013-11-15). "Guantánamo's forever captives to make pitch for freedom in secret". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2013-11-16. Retrieved 2014-02-02. President Barack Obama ordered his administration to set up the so-called Periodic Review Boards March 7, 2011. In July, Defense Department officials said the boards would review the files of 71 Guantánamo prisoners’ cases — 46 so-called “indefinite detainees” and 25 men once considered candidates for war crimes trials. 
  16. ^ "71 Gitmo inmates to get parole-style hearings - Pentagon". Russia Today. 2013-07-22. Archived from the original on 2013-07-24. The messages informed the lawyers that the government has finally started preparations to hold the so-called Periodic Review Boards, which were ordered by President Barack Obama in March 2011. It was not specified when the panels will take place or which detainees will see their cases reviewed first. 
  17. ^ Jason Leopold (2013-07-24). "Panel to review Guantanamo detainees: A new governmental process will review whether specific detainees should be freed". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2013-07-21. Two years after President Obama signed an executive order establishing a parole board of sorts to review whether any of Guantanamo's 48 "indefinite detainees" can be released, the panel is finally getting to work, with an eye towards reducing the population, Al Jazeera has learned. 
  18. ^ Ben Fox (2014-01-25). "New Guantanamo Hearings Limit Media, NGO Access". Miami: Abc News. Archived from the original on 2014-02-06. Some prisoners at Guantanamo are getting an opportunity to plead for their release, but journalists and observers from human rights groups won't get to hear them in what critics say is a break from past practice at the U.S. base in Cuba. 
  19. ^ "Periodic Review Secretariat: Review Information". Periodic Review Secretariat. Archived from the original on 2014-06-01.  mirror
  20. ^ "Saudi detainee sent home from Guantanamo". Global Post. 2014-11-22. Archived from the original on 2014-11-25. "A total of 13 detainees have been transferred this year," noted Paul Lewis, Special Envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure, in Saturday's statement. "This strikes a responsible balance and reflects the careful deliberation the Secretary of Defense brings to the transfer process, and follows a rigorous process in the interagency to review several items including security review prior to any transfer," he added. 
  21. ^ a b Alex Ely (2014-10-21). "PRB Recommends Repatriation for One Saudi Detainee, Continued Detention for Another". Lawfare. Retrieved 2014-02. 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.”  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  22. ^ "Saudi held 12 years at Guantanamo is sent home". Toronto Star. 2014-11-22. Archived from the original on 2014-11-23. Retrieved 2014-11-22. The board cleared him for release in October, citing a number of factors including his willingness to participate in the Saudi rehabilitation program. He left Guantanamo on Friday. 

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