Although a Kuwaiti is released from Guantanamo it is unlikely to close

Fawzi al-Odah 37 left Guantanamo Bay for Kuwait on Wednesday morning. It is 13 years since he left Kuwait to do humanitarian work and teach in Afghanistan. US authorities claimed originally that he had been associated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.




Al-Odah has always denied the charges and he was cleared by a Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing back in July. The full decision can be viewed here. The Review Board decided that they could not be confident in the testimony of other detainees which was the basis for the earlier decisions.
 When he arrives in Kuwait Al-Odah will be under observation in a military hospital for a week and he will also be transferred to a rehabilitation center for a year of rehabilitation. However, if he is regarded as having made progress after six months he will be able to work and be with his family during the day and return to the facility at night. Al-Odah's father is a businessman and a retired colonel in the Kuwaiti Air Force.
 Even after his release Al-Odah will be monitored for another three years. His internet use will be under surveillance as well as his social networking and financial activity. Alsol, he must surrender his passport and will not be allowed to travel outside Kuwait. These restrictions seem completely unfair and unjust given that Al-Odah was never tried and convicted of anything. In legal documents,
Al-Odah claims that he was handed over to Pakistani authorities on November 8 2001 as he tried to leave Afghanistan through the mountainous Tora Bora area when the US began their campaign against the Taliban. The documents claim that he was the victim of the practice of some local warlords and security forces who handed over Arabs to claim a bounty offered by the US. When he arrived in Guantanamo he wrote a letter to his parents assuring them that the Americans were looking at his case and he would soon be cleared and return to Kuwait. He ended up staying in Guantanamo well over a decade.
Of  twelve Kuwaitis held in Guantanamo only one remains, Fayiz al-Kandari, in spite of attempts by the Kuwaiti government to have him released as well. There are still 79 of the 148 prisoners who remain in Guantanamo cleared for transfer but still not released. The release of Al-Odah is the first release of any prisoners since May 31 when Obama transferred five Afghan Taliban prisoners to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who had been held as a prisoner of war by an affiliate of the Taliban.
The new release came just after Republicans took control of the US Senate. Republicans do not want Guantanamo closed and are adamant that no Guantanamo detainees be sent to the US. Republican incumbent senator Pat Roberts campaigned on a pledge that he would not allow any Guantanamo detainees to be sent to the US military prison at Fort Leavenworth.
Eric Lewis, Al-Odah's attorney claims that his client does not hold any ill will against the US in spite of his long incarceration. He simply wants to get on with his life now. Al-Odah's father constantly campaigned for his release and brought his case before the US Supreme Court.
 The release of Al-Odah does not mean that Guantanamo will now close especially since the control of Senate by the Republicans will make it more difficult to obtain the consent of Congress for moves toward closing Guantanamo. However, this article argues that there was really no prospect of Obama closing Guantanamo even before the Republicans gained control of Senate. Congress has already placed many restrictions on the transfer of detainees. The most likely effect of the new political situation is more noise about the subject with the Republicans threatening even more restrictions. The Republicans can't force Obama to bring new prisoners to Guantanamo nor even to try them in military commissions but then Obama cannot close Guantanamo either unless he tries to do so using his executive authority.
 The author of the article claims: I don’t think this is a serious prospect. I can’t imagine that Obama will want to provoke a nuclear confrontation with the Congress (including many Democrats) over this. While I do think there will be showdown issues over the next two years that pit the Congress against the President, I don’t believe this will be one of them. Put Guantanamo and detention in the category of bark but no bite. Obama is likely to finish his term with one of his first campaign promises unrealized but he can always blame this on Republican obstructionism.

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