An al-Qaeda-linked prisoner held at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, proclaimed his innocence in an op-ed published by the Houston Chronicle Sunday and urged the new prime minister of Pakistan to “press” the United States for his release.
The Guantánamo prison, commonly known as Gitmo, still holds 40 prisoners, including Pakistani national Ahmed Rabbani who penned the editorial with the assistance of his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.
According to the Pentagon, Rabbani served as “a financial and travel facilitator” for al-Qaeda leaders, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM).
Nevertheless, Rabbani claims his imprisonment is the result of “a case of mistaken identity,” adding that he is being “held prisoner indefinitely because the US Government cannot admit its mistake.”
The self-proclaimed Karachi taxi driver has been detained at Gitmo for 14 years without charge.
When Rabbani went on a hunger strike in October 2017, then-lawmaker Khan stressed the detainee’s allegation in his own op-ed, writing that a “mistake” landed the Karachi man in Gitmo.
Now that Khan is serving as Pakistan’s prime minister, Rabbani writes:
I admit that while I understand Pakistan must be his priority, I had hoped Khan would take the opportunity to tell President Donald Trump what a “rotten deal” the United States gets from keeping me here, and press for my release.
Trump continues to defame me as a “terrorist” and “unlawful enemy combatant” in order to look tough and excite his supporters…I am a taxi driver from Karachi, 500 miles from the Afghan border. Yet here I remain, in a group of 40 forgotten men, many of them “nobodies” like myself. Most of us have never been charged with a crime. In July, the U.S. government’s lawyer said it can keep us here for a hundred years if it chooses to, provided the “conflict” — a war we did not fight in and that can never be won or lost — lasts that long.
Pakistan’s prime minister has yet to publicly respond to Rabbani’s plea.
The U.S. has deemed the majority (26) of detainees still held at Gitmo to be “forever prisoners,” or too dangerous to release. The Associated Press (AP) noted this year that, under U.S. President Donald Trump, “forever prisoners” may “potentially be reviewed and added to the cleared list.”
Under Trump, the Pentagon has only repatriated one Gitmo detainee the previous administration approved for release.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who failed to keep his promise to shut down Gitmo, reduced the Gitmo population by about 200 detainees.
In the case of Rabbani, it appears the Obama administration determined in October 2016 that his “continued detention was necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”