Guantánamo Panel Approves Transfer of First High-Value Detainee

Published: January 12, 2022

Guled Duran, a Somali, has been held in classified facilities since the C.I.A. took custody of him in 2004. He has never been charged with a crime.

WASHINGTON — A Somali man who has been held at Guantánamo Bay as a high-value prisoner was approved for transfer with security assurances, according to a document obtained Monday, making him the first detainee who was brought there from a C.I.A. black site to be recommended for release.

Guled Hassan Duran, 47, received word of the decision on Monday morning, the eve of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He became the 14th or 15th of the 39 detainees still at Guantánamo with approval for transfer once U.S. diplomats find countries to accept them with security guarantees that satisfy the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III.

Mr. Duran was captured in Djibouti in 2004, spent about 900 days in C.I.A. custody and has been held in classified detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay without charge since September 2006. He cannot return to his homeland under a congressional prohibition on the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the case or on any approvals that the interagency Periodic Review Board had made but not announced.

“The administration remains dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay,” he said. “Nothing has changed about that.”

Mr. Duran is unlikely to go anywhere soon. The Biden administration has transferred only one detainee from the prison, a Moroccan man whose repatriation negotiations were begun during the Obama administration, put on hold during the Trump administration and completed in July. Once a deal is reached for any of the cleared prisoners, the secretary of defense has to sign off on it and Congress has to be provided 30 days’ notice.

Mr. Kirby also declined to discuss the case of Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni man in his mid-40s whose sister posted on Facebook that he had also been notified that he was approved for transfer. “We ask Allah to release them all,” she said.

Mr. Alwi has become one of Guantánamo’s best-recognized prison artists. In 2018, replicas of sailing ships that he fashioned from found objects in the cellblocks were the centerpieces of “Ode to the Sea,” an art show at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Soon after, the Defense Department declared art created by Guantánamo detainees property of the U.S. government and prohibited prisoners from giving pieces to their lawyers or anyone else. Prison staff also stopped showcasing his art in news media visits.

His lawyer, Beth D. Jacob, declined to comment.

Mr. Duran’s lawyer, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said he was informed of the approval after his client was notified of the board’s decision on Monday morning. The document, dated Nov. 10, pledged “vigorous efforts will be undertaken to identify a suitable transfer location” that is “outside the United States, subject to appropriate security and human treatment assurances.”

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