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U.S. may free suspected Osama bin Laden bodyguard at Gitmo

- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2014

An accused bodyguard of killed al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden may win his freedom from Guantanamo Bay, the latest in a White House push to clear and close the Cuba-based facility.

Ali Ahmad Razihi said at a Periodic Review Board hearing on Thursday at the Pentagon that he only wants to go home to Yemen, marry and work his family's fruit and vegetable farm, and that he's about as far from being a terrorist as can be, The Los Angeles Times reported. Lawyers for the U.S. military, in response, said they couldn't assuredly say whether his stated desire is true or not — and whether he's a threat to American security.

The hearings were implemented by President Obama and his staff as a means of letting free inmates at Gitmo who are no longer a threat to America — with a goal toward shuttering the facility.

Razihi was caught in December 2001 en route from Yemen to Afghanistan for al Qaeda training, and reportedly working in bin Laden's security force, The Los Angeles Times reported.

He's "consistently denied involvement with al Qaeda or any other extremist group," yet "almost certainly" advised his family that he was going to partner with al Qaeda, lawyers said, during the hearing, The Los Angeles Times reported. Moreover, he had several aliases that have appeared on al Qaeda rosters and documents.

But attorneys then argued that "his detention has posed a low threat," and that it's nearly impossible to gauge his chances for rejoining al Qaeda or another terrorist group if he's freed.

"We lack sufficient information to assess whether his stated intentions are genuine," Pentagon officials said, in a statement reported by The Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Razihi's defense attorney claimed his client "is a peaceful man" and that he's "mentioned to me many times that he desires to go back to Yemen and become a constructive member of his hometown, Taiz."

It's not clear when the decision on Razihi will be made.

But board members previously released another bin Laden bodyguard, Mahmoud And Aziz Mujahid, citing his "positive and constructive role in detention since 2009, extensive family support in Yemen and candor in recent interactions with U.S. officials," The Los Angeles Times reported.

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