Activists march in front of the White House, protesting the Guantanamo Bay detention facility’s continued existence, despite President Obama’s promises to close the prison. (Rebecca Nelson / Medill)
An attorney for one of Guantánamo prison’s most high-profile captives has raised new fears that the United States intends to release his client to Saudi Arabia, where he would likely be imprisoned again.
Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the UK-based human rights group Reprieve, provided The Nation with a copy of an urgent letter he sent to Parliament that contains new information about the US government’s plans for 46-year-old Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and the last British resident detained at Guantánamo.
The letter was sent July 17 to British MP Jane Ellison. In it, Stafford Smith writes that another member of Aamer’s legal team recently told him their client’s family had sought advice over whether they should hire a Saudi attorney named Abdallah al-Badrani.
“Mr. al-Badrani had made contact and asked for authorization to represent Shaker in partnership with an unnamed London-based lawyer,” Stafford Smith wrote in the letter. “This seemed suspect.”
Stafford Smith said Aamer’s family declined the offer to have al-Badrani represent them, but expressed concern over possible “moves afoot to try to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia under the pretext that his family lawyer has been authorized to facilitate such a move.”
Stafford Smith told The Nation neither he nor Ramzi Kassem, an associate professor of law at City University of New York School of Law, who was contacted by Aamer’s family, tried to contact al-Badrani.
“The clear implication is that the Saudis are trying to do the US and UK intelligence services’s dirty business by creating the pretext that they are authorized to take Shaker, whereupon he disappears into the silent vortex that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Stafford Smith told The Nation.
An Internet search for al-Badrani turned up only a half-dozen results, some nearly a decade old. (Its possible Stafford Smith may have received an incorrect spelling of Al-Badrani’s name.)
A spokeswoman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, declined to comment about the matter.
In addition, in a phone call, Aamer told Stafford Smith that Saudi authorities recently visited him at Guantánamo and told him he would be sent to a “rehabilitation program” because he had left Saudi Arabia and resettled his family in the UK without permission from the Saudi government.
Aamer’s name appears on a closely held list, released by the Pentagon last month, that identifies for the first time prisoners designated for either indefinite detention or repatriation. A “decision” box next to Aamer’s name says, “Transfer to [redacted] subject to appropriate security measures, including [redacted].”
Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, would not comment specifically on the allegations raised in Stafford Smith’s letter. But he told The Nation, “There have been ongoing talks with a number of countries for potential repatriation or resettlement of eligible detainees.”
“As with all diplomatic discussions, we simply do not discuss them until the transfer is complete—and only then, if the diplomatic agreement allows for such discussions,” he said. “As for any alleged arrangements that may or may not be in the works with countries into which detainees in our charge could be transferred, this is among the most sensitive work in which we engage. We simply will never discuss issues like that.”