It seems the wrong man was held at Guantanamo Bay for a breathtaking 13 years. His crime? Not terrorism. Not suspected terrorism. His crime was having the wrong name… or rather, the right name, as admitted by American officials.
His name is Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, and the truth emerged during a panel hearing for his release, according to The Guardian.
al-Shamiri, who is currently 37 (and would have been 24 when he was nabbed) was accused of being a high-level al-Qaeda courier and trainer according to his profile. Instead, he was allegedly only a low-level foot soldier.
His profile also states that al-Shamiri had fought in Bosnia in 1995, Yemen in 1996 (he has allegedly admitted to this) and for the Afghan Taliban in 2000.
He was considered too dangerous to release, despite there being insufficient evidence for them to have him tried in court. He was thus detained for 13 years. Without trial.
It seems that a bureaucratic error was to blame for his classification as being too dangerous to release:
“Mustafa Abd-al-Qawi Abd-al-Aziz al-Shamiri (YM-434) fought in several jihadist theaters and associated with al-Qaida members in Afghanistan,” the prisoner’s profile says. “It was previously assessed that YM-434 also was an al-Qaida facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, but we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to YM-434’s,” the statement said.
According to the statement, al-Shamiri wanted to fight to protect Muslims, “but not of global jihad, and there are no indications that his views have changed.”
Apparently, “he boasted that he is willing to remain in detention indefinitely, and has expressed no plans for the future apart from a desire to get married and a willingness to work at his family’s shop in Sanaa, Yemen.” The accuracy of any of these statements, and the conditions under which they may/may not have been made cannot be independently verified.
During al-Shamiri’s panel hearing to determine whether he was fit for release, this statement was broadcast to journalists in Virginia:
“From the onset, he has demonstrated a consistent positive attitude towards life after Gitmo,” al-Shamiri’s lawyers said in their remarks. “He has a strong desire to obtain an education in order to provide for a future spouse that his family has already located for him,”
“Mustafa will show you today that he is not a continuing significant threat to the United States of America. He is earnestly preparing for his life after Gitmo. During his time in detention, he has attended English and art classes, in addition to acquiring carpentry and cooking skills. During the last feast, Mustafa generously took the time to prepare over 30 plates of pastries for his fellow detainees. When I asked him why he would make pastries for his fellow detainees, he said it’s because it makes him feel like he can give back and share with people.”
“Mustafa does have remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life. He has vocalized to us that while he cannot change the past, he would definitely have chosen a different path. He wants to make a life for himself. He is aware that Yemen is not an option and he is willing to go to any country that will accept him.”