Armies of Liberation

Jane Novak's blog about Yemen

The Gitmo Quandry and Yemen

Filed under: USA, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 11:28 am on Sunday, April 5, 2009

One would hope that the US’s “whole goverment” approach to Yemen takes into account that HRW found a pattern of collective punishment against the civlian population in Sa’ada. The whole article is worth a read, here’s a teaser:

Open Democracy: The oil revenues that underpin President Saleh’s extensive patronage networks are dwindling. Yemen is the smallest oil producer in the middle east and the extraction trend has turned downwards. State revenues from oil and gas sales are forecast to plummet sharply. Yemen’s window of opportunity to create a working post-oil economy narrows as oil production falls closer to consumption levels.

The falling price of oil over the previous year has put immediate pressure on the national budget and parallel patronage payouts – leading some observers to speculate that Yemen’s “credit crunch” rather than disputes with the opposition parties over constitutional niceties led the government to postpone the elections planned for April 2009 until 2011. World Bank officials and western diplomats are trying to promote good governance and strengthen central institutions but corruption and poor capacity in the civil service have put the brakes on genuine progress. (Read on …)

US May Send Gitmo Yemenis to Saudi

Filed under: Saudi Arabia, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 10:41 pm on Friday, March 13, 2009


100 detainees, 15 to go to trial, 15 cleared for release, some of the remaining 70 with family in SA may go for rehab there.

Story Highlights

-Rehab plan would involve only Yemenis with family ties to Saudi Arabia, paper says

-Yemeni spokesman opposes plan: “We want our detainees back to the homeland”

-Saudis may have underlying motive to interrogate detainees wanted for terror

This is rather important as well: In a dramatic break with the Bush administration, the Justice Department on Friday announced it is discarding the “enemy combatant” designation, which allowed the United States to hold suspected terrorists at length without criminal charges.

More on the new de-designation: CO:

In a court filing in Washington, the Justice Department dropped the term “enemy combatant” to refer to those being held in Guantanamo. It also said that the government’s authority to continue to jail terrorist suspects would hinge on proving that they “authorized, committed or aided” the Sept. 11 attacks or that they “were part of or substantially supported” the Taliban or al-Qaida.

Some lawyers said the decision not to use the term “enemy combatant” marked the death knell for military commissions, which Congress established specifically to try Guantanamo detainees. Under federal law, the commissions have authority to try only persons declared “unlawful alien enemy combatants.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, who defended Osama bin Laden’s driver before such a commission, said Friday’s move effectively gave the war court “jurisdiction over a category of persons that doesn’t exist.” (Read on …)

“Anywhere but Yemen”

Filed under: USA, Yemen, gitmo, mentions — by Jane Novak at 10:32 am on Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Weekly Standard, Yemenat:

في اليوم الثاني والعشرين من يناير 2009، وبعد يومين من أداء باراك أوباما يمين تولي المنصب،أصدر الرئيس الجديد أمرا تنفيذيا يقضي بإغلاق مركز الاعتقال في خليج غوانتانامو بكوبا خلال عام واحد.
ومن خلال كاميرات رصدت الرئيس وهو يمضي توقيعه على الوثيقة، قال أوباما أن التغيير سيعيد للولايات المتحدة “الأساس الأخلاقي السامي” و “استعادة المعايير عبر إجراءات القيم الدستورية التي قد رفعت من شأن هذا البلد حتى في أثناء الحرب، والتعامل مع الإرهاب “.
وفي طلب تنفيذي مستقل، أنشأ الرئيس الجديد لجنة عمل تقود لمراجعة شاملة في سياسة الاعتقال الأمريكية ولتزويده “بمعلومات من حيث الكيفية التي نتمكن من خلالها معالجة التخلص من بعض المعتقلين الذين من الممكن أن يكونوا حالياً في غوانتانامو،ولا يمكننا نقلهم إلى بلدان أخرى،والذين يمكن أن يشكلوا خطرا جديا على الولايات المتحدة”.
وفي حين كان أوباما قد تعمد الغموض بشأن ما قد يحدث لحوالي 248 محتجزاً في خليج غوانتانامو حالياً، فإن سياسة إدارته بدأت تتبلور سريعاً في منتصف الطريق في جميع أنحاء العالم. فهناك حوالي 100 ممن تبقى من معتقلي غوانتنامو هم من اليمن، موطن أجداد أسامة بن لادن.
وفي تصريحات نشرت يوم إصدار أوباما أوامره التنفيذية، قال السفير الأميركي في اليمن انه يأمل أن يسمح لـ: “غالبية” اليمنيين المحتجزين بالعودة إلى ديارهم لـ:”يصنعون لأنفسهم مستقبلا هنا”.
وذكر السفير ستيفن سيش لموقع الخارجية الإلكتروني التابع للحكومة الأمريكية: “نود بالتأكيد أن نتمكن من إعادتهم لليمن وأن نساعدهم على إعادة دمج أنفسهم في مجتمعهم وعائلاتهم “. ورغم أنه أقر ببعض “المخاطر المؤكدة” في عودة الإرهابيين المشتبه بهم إلى الوسط السكاني، رأى سيش أن عددا قليلا فقط من المحتجزين يشكلون مشاكل حقيقية. وأضاف قائلاً: ” ربما باستثناء حالة بعض عناصر متشددة جدا، نعتقد أن غالبية هؤلاء المعتقلين يمكن وضعهم في برنامج إعادة الاندماج بما يعود بالفائدة بهدف تمكينهم مع مرور الوقت من العثور على طريق العودة إلى المجتمع اليمني دون تشكيل خطر أمني “.
وذهب الرئيس اليمني علي عبد الله صالح بعد يومين أبعد من ذلك. ففي ظهور له في مؤتمر أمني بصنعاء، أعلن صالح أن اليمن قد وضعت برنامجا لإعادة التأهيل، وأنه سيتم فعلياً إرسال كافة المعتقلين اليمنيين إلى بلادهم في غضون ثلاثة أشهر. كما أعلن: “الآن وفي حدود 60-90 يوما، سيكون 94 معتقلا يمنياً هنا بيننا”. (Read on …)

“Anywhere But Yemen”, Weekly Standard

Filed under: gitmo, mentions — by Jane Novak at 11:58 pm on Monday, February 2, 2009

A good analysis from the Weekly Standard on the issue of the difficulties of repatriating Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay detention facility: There are two obvious problems with releasing the Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo: the detainees and Yemen.

I like the section on Hilal because its important that more people understand that a top member of the Yemeni government, close to President Saleh, seemingly had foreknowledge of 9/11. Tom and Steve’s write up:

Al Hilal worked for the Political Security Organization (PSO), which is an intelligence agency that reports directly to President Saleh. The PSO operated an official government “deportation” operation, in which veteran mujahedeen were relocated. The U.S. government says al Hilal has admitted that he was tasked with keeping tabs on al Qaeda operatives for Saleh’s government. The U.S. government also charges, however, that al Hilal was really an al Qaeda member who used his position of authority to assist his fellow terrorists. (Read on …)

Judge al Hittar’s Secret Prison in Yemen’s Endowment’s Ministry

Filed under: Religious, Yemen, gitmo, hostages, prisons — by Jane Novak at 9:30 am on Thursday, January 29, 2009


Judge al Hittar is the Minister of Endowments in Yemen. He supposedly rose through the security ranks to become a judge and later began the religious dialog program in 2002, which in and of itself is a good idea. Judge al Hittar is a bit biased against Hashimites (shocker!) and thats why there was never any dialog with the Houthi rebels. In the dialog program with imprisoned al Qaeda operatives, al Hittar only discussed the non-acceptability of attacks within Yemen and going to Iraq for jihad was not actively discouraged. The program itself became an expedited release program, a charade of reform, and was discontinued in 2005. This is the guy who will be in charge of “rehabilitating” the Gitmo detainees. (In the 2006 escape, the 23 al Qaeda prisoners tunneled- with their spoons- to the ladies bathroom in a mosque where al Hittar preaches.)

The existance of a private prison is sad for a ministry that is supposed to be overseeing all things religious. Shame shame. However, private prisons are common. Powerful people have the authority to imrpison citizens without recourse, and Kudos to HOOD for taking a stand when a preacher was randomly thrown into this jail.

HOOD revealed a secret private prison inside the Endowment Minister facility after receiving a complaint from an ordinary person and then a team from HOOD lawyers went to follow up and pictured the prison.

Maher Mohammed Ismail Hebah, an orator and Immam of al-Ansar mosque, was apprehended yesterday “without knowing exactly his charges”, he said to HOOD lawyer Abdul-Rahman Barman.

News has come up before about private prison in the ministry, but was uncertain until it was realistically disclosed today, said Barman. “It is ironic that as you enter the building, ‘Smile, you are at the Endowment Ministry’ phrase caught an eye,” said Barman.

This prison is considered illegal because the ministry is not entitled to arrest anyone. “It is a crime to apprehend anyone without a judicial writ,” said Khaled al-Anesi, the executive Director of HOOD.

On other hand, the ministry imprisoned Hibah due to his apposing speech in his mosque aginst the ministry and the government, said Mohammed al-Hajj, the secretary of the Minister. He confirmed that there is no prison but detention for the problems that happen in the ministry. Al-Hajj said that the ministry has the right to arrest whoever create unrest. He added that the matter is simple, Hibah should bring a guarantor to get him released. Hibah is reported that he signed a statement that he committed to stopping talking in such manner.

HOOD sent a letter to the General Prosecution to visit the detention scene to close it and release Hibah. The team, who went to visit the place, is the lawyers: Mohammed al-Aroosi, Taha Farhan, Ahmed Arman and Abdul-Rahman Barman

“I believe the detainees may be exploited by the regime as a bargaining chip with both the US and Al-Qaeda,” Novak stated.

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, Counter-terror, gitmo, mentions — by Jane Novak at 8:36 am on Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maybe this, “It is extremely difficult to have confidence in the regime’s commitment to security issues,” she said.

For the record my full answer did express concerns about the Gitmo detainees reintergration into society, possible torture and arbitrary arrest. However there were several people interviewed for the article who expressed similiar concerns, so the author took that part of my answer which is good because someone has to say it.

Yemen Times: Vague plans for Gitmo returnees’ rehabilitation center

SANA’A, Jan. 28 — President Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed last week the government’s eight-month old announcement to set up a rehabilitation center for Yemeni returnees from Guantanamo. The center will be operational within three months from now.

“Ninety-four Yemeni detainees will be here among us” stated President Saleh during the security conference last week. He also mentioned that the former US administration had suggested sending the Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia rather than Yemen because of the lack of a rehabilitation environment in the country. (Read on …)

AQAP’s First Job as Mercenaries, the South?

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, South Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 8:29 am on Thursday, January 29, 2009

What we are all talking about today is this article on a few sites saying News Yemen saw a letter to AQAP inviting the group to attack the southerners. News Yemen is a reputable organization, not partisan and normally quite painstaking about its fact checking, but this is bizarre on its face; however not that bizarre that its impossible.

Network Shabwa Press – rebounds – The al-Qaeda in Yemen, what may be the most controversial document emphasizes on the relationship between the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh collections jihadists خصوصاً الذين اشتركوا في حرب 94 ضد الحزب الاشتراكي اليمني. Especially those who participated in the 94 war against the Yemeni Socialist Party.

فقد ذكر موقع نيوز يمن المستقل يوم الأربعاء أنه حصل على نسخة من رسالة وجهها التنظيم إلى أعضائه باسم “التحديات الراهنة في أرض اليمن” وفيها دعوة إلى استغلال الحركة الجنوبية لخدمة القاعدة وتكشف أيضا عن تفاصيل علاقة الرئيس بالجهاديين. According to the site of the independent News Yemen on Wednesday that it received a copy of a letter addressed to the members of the organization as the “current challenges in the land of Yemen,” and invited the group to exploit the South to serve al-Qaeda and also reveal the details of the relationship Paljhadiin President.

وقالت الرسالة إن الرئيس علي عبدالله صالح “يعيش هذه الأيام حالة من الخوف بسبب تلك الأوضاع ما جعله يستدعي المجاهدين وخاصة الذين شاركوا في حرب صيف 1994م مبدياً استعداده بصرف مبالغ مالية لهم مقابل إخراجه من هذه المحنة”. The message said that President Ali Abdullah Saleh, “These days, living a state of fear due to these conditions is required to make it, especially the mujahideen, who participated in the summer war in 1994 and expressed the readiness of financial payments in return for them out of this ordeal.” (Read on …)

Zuhair and the Cole

Filed under: Other Countries, USS Cole, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 3:15 pm on Wednesday, January 28, 2009


However, it seems that his deportation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, either to Serbia or Bahrain, will be delayed for some time. The Bosnian Federation Prosecutor’s Office is also hoping to question Al Hamad with regard to a handful of murders allegedly committed by Mujahideen fighters. (Read on …)

Gitmo Gitmo Gitmo

Filed under: Counter-terror, Presidency, Saudi Arabia, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 12:10 pm on Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Military Commissions, once they started, worked well. The Yemeni detainees cleared for release apparently are not an issue for the messiah. The US is going to put its security in Saleh’s hands and hope counseling will do the trick. I hope theres some overarching plan to deal with the spread and empowerment of al Qaeda in Yemen.

US donates $500,000 worth of equipment to keep track of them.

Depute Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James W. McJunkin has delivered to the Yemeni Government state-of-the art thirty biometric collection systems. As part of the United States’ commitment to assisting Yemen combat terrorism and other criminal activity, these systems, with a total value over $503,000, will assist in the collection and comparison of biometric data, specifically fingerprints.

IHT: released Saudi gitmo detainee is now #2 of AQY.

YO The Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Saturday that a total of 94 Yemeni Guantanamo detainees will be released to Yemen within three months.

He said Yemen had refused an offer from the former US administration to the release the Yemeni men to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation.

“We refused the offer to release the Yemenis to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation, and we told them we would establish our own centre for rehabilitating them and helping them get rid of extremism and violence,” said President Saleh in an annual conference for security leaders held in Sana’a Saturday.

“Now, within 60-90 days, 94 Yemeni detainees will be here among us,” he said

Late last week, the Yemeni government announced it has started to establish a special centre for receiving, re-qualifying and reintegrating its citizens in the Guantanamo detention when they are released. (Read on …)

Hamdan Released in Yemen

Filed under: USS Cole, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 6:02 pm on Monday, January 12, 2009

Bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, was released in Yemen this week Yemeni authorities confirm. The US Military Tribunal sentenced Hamdan to five years, including time served, and returned him to Yemen in November. He served the next and last month of his sentence in jail and is now free.

Follow up measures by the Yemeni government are likely to be lax, considering even terrorists convicted of murder in Yemen get amnesty. (I am referencing the perpetrators of the 2000 USS Cole terror attack that killed 17 US sailors. The terrorists, according to the WaPo, are all free.) Like the terrorists Yemen has already freed, Hamdan gave a pledge to refrain from violence. Yemen’s rehabilitation program strives to convince the jihaddists that President Saleh is not an apostate. The program is widely understood to be a mechanism of expedited release.

The sentence meted out to Hamdan is in stark contrast to that given to that given to Ali Hamza Bahlul, who was sentenced to life in prison for solicitation to commit murder. Bahlul created jihaddist recruiting videos for bin Laden. The reasoning behind his conviction is very similar to that used by the International Criminal Court to convict Rwandan radio station operators of incitement to murder for broadcasting calls to kill Tutsis’s duing the Rwandan genocide. Bahlul is both clearly guilty and clearly a continuing threat. Next up for the Military Commissions is al-Nashiri, allegedly a major figure in the USS Cole bombing along with several other terror attacks and plots. If there is another trial.

Focusing on the Military Commissions themselves, its clear they have been conducted with a high degree of professionalism. As one of the victims’ family members told us, “Thank God we have individuals who are willing to see that justice is served… We are extremely proud of the prosecutions professionalism, dedication and their diligence in their work.”

In Yemen, the same backwards farce continues. The latest outrage by that psychotic mafia is the attempted assassination of a blogger and the imprisonment and torture of several others. Torture in Yemen is real torture. See our earlier report, Witness Testimony From the Dungeons of Yemeni Prisons and note some of these victims are 10 and 12 year old children. What is the Obamamessiah to do?

Not only does Yemen torture its children, but it has been documented to be committing crimes against humanity by withholding food and medicine from the civilian population in the war torn Sa’ada region, while bombing them. Tom Joscelyn of the Long War Journal sent me a breakdown of the remaining Yemeni detainees by “red flags”. And the vast majority have three of more indicators. Some of them are bad dudes (and some not), and recidivism rates are high for committed jihaddists.

News today from the Obama camp is that he will order Gitmo closed within weeks of his ascention to power. What the plan is after that is unclear. If they come onto US soil, and are found not guilty, they will be able to apply for political asylum to remain in the US according to current law. If they are relased to Yemen, they will be freed to operate in an environment that lacks of counter-terror restraints and encourages jihaddists mentality.

Info Withheld from Defense on Gitmo Detainee Batarfi

Filed under: USA, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, January 6, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday accused the Bush administration of hiding evidence in the case of a Yemen man who has been held as a terror suspect at Guantanamo Bay for six years.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was forced to delay ruling on whether to free Aymen Saeed Batarfi because as many as 10 documents of classified information were withheld from the court until recently.

“I think it’s unfair, I think it’s disingenuous,” Sullivan said during an hourlong hearing. He added: “This government, especially, hides the ball when it suits this government’s purpose.”

Sullivan also presided over last fall’s trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens, when prosecutors broke rules requiring them to turn over evidence favorable to the Alaska Republican.

In Tuesday’s case, Justice Department attorneys admitted that at least some of the recently revealed documents dated back to September. But Justice attorney John Henebery said the government did not believe the information had to be turned over immediately.

William J. Murphy, a Baltimore lawyer representing Batarfi, said the Yemeni was on a humanitarian aid mission on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when he was injured and swept up by Northern Alliance forces, who turned him over to the U.S. Batarfi’s lawyers maintain he was not assisting al-Qaida.

However, Justice Department attorney Chris Hardee said Batarfi was at one of al-Qaida’s major battles. “He wasn’t just a charity worker,” Hardee told Sullivan.

At least some of the evidence against Batarfi is hearsay, Sullivan said, although he added: “There’s some pretty powerful allegations.”GN/AP

The Ted Steven story referenced is a doozy. The poor guy who came forward needs whistleblower protection. Some addtional background on Batarfi from Long War Journal:

Al Matrafi’s ties to these senior terrorists gave al Wafa access to al Qaeda’s most sensitive projects, including Yazid Sufaat’s anthrax program.

One of al Matrafi’s employees, a Yemeni named Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, is currently held at Guantánamo. It is not clear what the U.S. Government plans to do with him, but Batarfi is allegedly a long-time mujahideen, having first traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the late 1980s. After training in an al Qaeda camp and participating in the first jihad in Afghanistan, Batarfi graduated from medical school in Pakistan and, according to the New York Times, “pursued postdoctoral studies there.” Batarfi even became an orthopedic surgeon.

Batarfi used his expertise to become the medical advisor to al Wafa. It was in this capacity, the government alleges, that Batarfi “met a Malaysian microbiologist in Kandahar” while staying at an al Qaeda guesthouse in August 2001. “This microbiologist wanted to equip a lab and train the Afghans to test blood” and “was involved in developing anthrax for al Qaida.” Batarfi told another al Wafa member “to purchase four to five thousand United States Dollars worth of medical equipment for the Malaysian microbiologist.” Although the microbiologist is not named in the government’s unclassified files, he is most certainly Yazid Sufaat.

Rehab in Yemen

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, Civil Rights, Counter-terror, Religious, USA, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 2:29 am on Monday, January 5, 2009

Jan 22, 2009

Yemen sets up rehab center for Guantanamo returnees, Arab News

SANAA: Yemen is setting up a center where more than 100 Yemenis are to undergo rehabilitation after their expected release from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, state media reported yesterday.

The center is being built in Sanaa with US government assistance, according to the weekly newspaper 26 September, a Defense Ministry mouthpiece. (Read on …)

Yemeni Anthrax Specialists at Gitmo

Filed under: Counter-terror, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 8:20 am on Monday, December 15, 2008

Its my understanding there’s a humdinger coming out on just the Yemenis. This is from the Weekly Standard:

Al Matrafi was connected to the highest levels of the terror network. He allegedly met with Osama bin Laden twice, once in late 2000 and a second time in July 2001 at bin Laden’s house in Kandahar. Al Matrafi acted as an emissary between bin Laden and Saudi clerics who supported al Qaeda, including one who helped establish al Wafa. According to the U.S. Government’s files, al Matrafi also had “numerous conversations with Mullah Omar” and “negotiated a deal that allowed the Taliban to direct al Wafa’s activities.”

Al Matrafi’s ties to these senior terrorists gave al Wafa access to al Qaeda’s most sensitive projects, including Yazid Sufaat’s anthrax program.

One of al Matrafi’s employees, a Yemeni named Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, is currently held at Guantánamo. It is not clear what the U.S. Government plans to do with him, but Batarfi is allegedly a long-time mujahideen, having first traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the late 1980s. After training in an al Qaeda camp and participating in the first jihad in Afghanistan, Batarfi graduated from medical school in Pakistan and, according to the New York Times, “pursued postdoctoral studies there.” Batarfi even became an orthopedic surgeon.

Batarfi used his expertise to become the medical advisor to al Wafa. It was in this capacity, the government alleges, that Batarfi “met a Malaysian microbiologist in Kandahar” while staying at an al Qaeda guesthouse in August 2001. “This microbiologist wanted to equip a lab and train the Afghans to test blood” and “was involved in developing anthrax for al Qaida.” Batarfi told another al Wafa member “to purchase four to five thousand United States Dollars worth of medical equipment for the Malaysian microbiologist.”

Although the microbiologist is not named in the government’s unclassified files, he is most certainly Yazid Sufaat.

Yet another current Guantánamo detainee is, like Batarfi, a Yemeni who was working for al Wafa at the time of his capture. The U.S. government alleges that Jamil Ahmed Said Nassir was identified by a senior al Wafa official as being “a Karachi University microbiology graduate student,” who purchased materials for Wafa from a chemical company. Thus, Nassir may have been involved in Sufaat’s anthrax program as well. It is possible that Nassir is, like Sufaat, a scientist who wanted to use his training to serve al Qaeda’s goals.

So, we have four alleged terrorists all of whom have been detained in the post-9/11 world and at least three of whom were allegedly involved in al Qaeda’s anthrax program in some fashion. Two of them, Yazid Sufaat and Abdullah Aiza al Matrafi, have been released from custody. It is up to the Malaysian government to make sure Sufaat does not return to terrorism. And it is up to the Saudis to make sure al Matrafi does not rejoin his al Qaeda and Taliban brethren. Indeed, more than one hundred Saudis are in al Matrafi’s shoes–that is, they were once detained at Guantánamo and are now living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have built a program to rehabilitate these former detainees, but only time will tell if this effort is effective.

The other two, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi and Jamil Ahmed Said Nassir, currently reside at Guantánamo. Both of them are Yemenis and the Bush administration has had a difficult time figuring out what to do with the approximately 97 Yemenis left at Guantánamo. It is not clear what the new Obama administration will do with them either.

Yemenis Ramzi bin al Shaibh and Walid bin Attash Seek to Admit Guilt in 9/11 Plot

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, USS Cole, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 11:51 am on Monday, December 8, 2008

Update: Judge refuses the plea which includes the condition by the five detainees that they are immediatelyh sentenced to death, that’s their request which the judge refused.

Both are also accused in the USS Cole bombing, which they should hopefully be tried for as well.

Its unclear at this point if this is a formal pleading or just an admission of guilt. In a letter to the court, they requested a hearing to announce their confessions. The court is determining if it is proper to plead guilty in a death penalty case or if a defense is automatically required. The two also fired their lawyers amid the lawyers’ charges the defendants were overly influenced by Khalid Sheik Mohammed in making the guilty plea.


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Confessed al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four 9/11 accused co-conspirators offered to plead guilty Monday to orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The surprise turnabout came in what was meant to be a routine pre-trial hearing at the war court, or military commission.

The Pentagon seeks the death penalty in their case.

But the defendants made no mention of the death penalty or ”martyrdom” as Mohammed calls it, during the morning session before Army Col. Stephen Henely. (Read on …)

Yemen Preparing Center for Gitmo Returnees

Filed under: Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 12:10 am on Monday, December 1, 2008

Will it have a revolving door?

SANA’A, NewsYemen

The Defense Ministry’s news website reported last Thursday that the Yemeni government has completed measures to establish a center for receiving Yemeni detainees in the U.S Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The source said the center would help get the returnees rehabilitated into society. The government has prepared a program to qualify returnees and treat them with dignity. The center will also help persuade other extremists to renounce violence, said the source.

This statement came one day after the Yemeni government received the Osama Bin Laden ex-driver Salim Hamdan from the U.S. authorities after five- year imprisonment in Guantanamo.

Hamdan, who arrived in Yemen on Wednesday, will serve out his remaining prison sentence in a state security prison in Sana’a until December 27, according to the Pentagon.

Yemenis at Gitmo and Yemen’s Terrorist Circus

Filed under: Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 12:09 am on Monday, December 1, 2008

Slate article by Ginny Hill:

Barack Obama’s foreign-policy advisers must be hoping that Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is ready to pull a rabbit out of his mashadda. If Obama is determined to close Guantanamo when he takes office, he’ll have to strike a deal with Saleh over repatriation conditions for dozens of Yemeni men who are currently stuck in diplomatic limbo.

More than 100 Yemenis have been detained at Guantanamo since January 2002, and they now constitute the largest national population group remaining at the camp. Only 14 Yemenis (including the body of one detainee who committed suicide) have been flown home. At least 11 other Yemenis have been officially approved for release, and there are many more who are unlikely ever to face trial.

President Obama could simply put the Yemenis on the next flight home, according to Appeal for Justice’s legal director, David Remes. “If we want them to go home, we’ll have to leave it to Yemen to decide what to do with them when they get there,” says Remes, who represents 16 Yemeni clients in Guantanamo. However, the U.S. government has been reluctant to turn the Yemeni detainees over to a country that seems unable or unwilling to control terrorism within its own borders.

Yemen is a weak, incomplete state on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s a sham democracy where the tribes are heavily armed and power is brokered through personal ties and patronage payments. Twenty million Arabs inhabit one of the poorest nations on earth—a country of kickbacks and corruption, with a highly factionalized elite and a head of state who belongs to the longest-serving world-leaders club.

President Saleh has survived three decades at the top by striking deals with tribal proxies, but his divide-and-rule strategy has turned crisis management into a permanent condition. “Saleh is dealing with an on-again, off-again civil war in the north, economic and political unrest in the south, and al-Qaida in between,” says Remes.

Violent jihad has been increasing since 2003, when 26 prominent terrorist suspects escaped from a high-security Yemeni prison by tunnelling their way into the bathroom of a local mosque. Central courts have limited reach, so President Saleh favors surrender-and-release deals, in which terrorist suspects-turned-informers are set free on a promise of good behavior. On Nov. 8, Yemen’s appeal court halved the 10-year jail term of convicted militant Jaber al-Banna, a U.S.-Yemeni citizen who earned a place on the FBI’s “most wanted” list for providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Yemen’s terrorist circus could be described as farcical if the consequences weren’t so tragic. In 1998, four Western tourists were taken hostage by an Islamist group and killed in a bungled rescue raid by Yemeni security forces. In October 2000, 17 U.S. soldiers died in Aden harbor when the USS Cole was bombed during a refueling stop. (Read on …)

Embassy Attackers Former Gitmo Detainees? or Iraq Returnees?

Filed under: Yemen, embassy, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 11:44 pm on Sunday, November 30, 2008

Update: Tacky, they corrected it without noting the correction: Three of the seven men involved in an attack against the US embassy in Yemen in September were graduates of the Yemeni rehabilitation programme.

But at least we know the story is what we thought it was.

Original Post:
What? BBC sez: Three of the seven men involved in an attack against the US embassy in Yemen in September were former Guantanamo detainees who had gone through the Yemeni rehabilitation programme.

That’s the first I heard of that, there were 13 returned from Gitmo prior to Hamden. Three of the embassy attackers were returnees from Iraq. I haven’t read anything about the embassy attackers having been repatriated from Gitmo. I’m so not in the mood to start matching up names. This is a clerical error, yes?

Hamden Heads to Yemen Amid US Concerns

Filed under: Counter-terror, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 7:27 pm on Wednesday, November 26, 2008


WASHINGTON (AFP) — Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be transferred to his home in Yemen, US media reported Tuesday.

Hamdan is expected to arrive in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 48 hours, where he will serve the remainder of his sentence, The Washington Post reported.

A jury of six US military officers at a Guantanamo terrorism trial in August sentenced Hamdan to five years and six months in prison for supporting terrorism, which, taking into account time served, amounted to only an additional five months.

“The conditions of Hamdan’s release are that Yemen will hold him until Dec. 27 and will then let him go and continue to mitigate any threat he might pose to the United States and its allies,” the Post said, citing a senior diplomatic official speaking on the condition of anonymity because Hamdan is yet to arrive in Yemen.

The Pentagon refused to confirm the report.

“In general we don’t talk about transfers until they are completed,” Pentagon spokesman Mark Ballesteros told AFP.

Hamdan, a native of Yemen and about 40 years old, was picked up by US forces in Afghanistan in late 2001, and arrived at the Guantanamo prison in 2002.

Around 100 of the roughly 250 “war on terror” suspects held in Guantanamo are from Yemen. Washington has not reached an agreement with Sanaa that would allow US officials to send home more Yemeni prisoners.

“We have not had confidence that the Yemeni government would take the required measures to protect civilian population from the detainees once released,” another Pentagon spokesman, Commander Jeffrey Gordon, told AFP.


Filed under: Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 9:12 pm on Thursday, November 20, 2008


Guantanamo’s Yemeni Detainees Epitomize a U.S. Security Concern

The single biggest opportunity — and potential difficulty — for the incoming administration’s plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, comes from the same group of Yemeni prisoners, who make up fully 40 percent of the detainees still held there.

Despite intensive diplomatic discussions in recent months, and the Yemeni government’s promise to put released prisoners through a rehabilitation program, the Bush administration remains unconvinced that the impoverished Arab nation is capable of absorbing a group of men that officials believe includes hardened extremists. (Read on …)

Yemen Main Obstacle to Closing Guantanamo for Obama

Filed under: Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 9:44 pm on Saturday, November 8, 2008


The Yemeni Factor. Any route to closing Guantanamo involves repatriating most of the roughly 250 detainees still held in Cuba. Sending detainees home requires negotiating the terms of their release with the home country. Since Yemenis make up the largest group of prisoners in Cuba, talks with the government in Sanaa will be key. But Yemen has been the hardest country to engage on the issue, according to a former senior official familiar with the process. The Bush administration has asked home countries to impose restrictions on the returnees. Saudi Arabia, for example, has imprisoned some Gitmo veterans, limited the travel of others and put those it thought it could co-opt through a “de-radicalization” program. “Yemen doesn’t want to be seen as doing anything for the United States,” says the former official, who declined to be named discussing sensitive diplomacy. Even if it agreed to U.S. demands, Yemen might not have the capability to honor them. “It has areas of the country that are poorly governed and its borders are porous,” said the former official. If the new administration is willing to release detainees without demands on the home country, the process can go quickly. But the risk is that some might pose future security threats to America.

Convicted Al-Qaeda Operative Still Bloodthirsty

Filed under: USS Cole, Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 8:32 am on Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Miami Herald sent a reporter to Gitmo for the trial, and you can see the difference in the depth of the reporting from the majority of the big outlets that are just reprinting the AP version.

Bin Laden cohort defiant after getting life sentence
A military jury convicted Osama bin Laden’s media secretary of three war crimes charges then condemned the terrorist to serve life in prison; he responded with defiance.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — A military jury Monday convicted Osama bin Laden’s media secretary of war crimes for creating an al Qaeda recruiting video that prosecutors argued incited suicide bombers. Within hours, the jury ordered him to serve life in prison.

The convict, Ali Hamza al Bahlul, about 40, responded by breaking his week-long boycott of the trial with a 50-minute anti-American monologue.

He declared his devotion to Allah, berated the United States for the plight of the Palestinians and, noting his election-eve conviction, announced that radical Islam’s war with the West would persist with whoever succeeds President Bush.

”We have fought and we fight and will fight any government that governs America,” said Bahlul. He waved a poem he wrote in Arabic in praise of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Storm of the Airplanes, and said he had volunteered for that suicide mission.

Until he was convicted, the Yemeni father of four had declined to mount a defense and sat silently, occasionally smiling at the mention of his handiwork. (Read on …)

Gary Swenchonis Sr. reports from Gitmo on the Trial of Bahlul, “We are extremely grateful to the US military” (Corrected)

Filed under: gitmo — by Jane Novak at 6:00 pm on Monday, November 3, 2008

garygswenchonis.jpgGary Swenchonis, Sr. is the father of Gary Swenchonis, Jr. who was one of 17 sailors murdered in the terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Swenchonis Sr. is in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, attending the trial of Ali Hamza Bahlul. The al-Qaeda operative was convicted today on multiple counts on charges of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder, and providing material to support terrorism.

In a statement, Gary said:

“I was in court today at Guantanamo to testify at a military commission trial of an al Qaeda terrorist who created a recruitment video that exploits the death of our son and his mates who were killed or wounded in the attack on the USS Cole attack.

My wife and I have had the continuous support of the members of the prosecutors office and the military personnel stationed on the base. And for that we are extremely and sincerely grateful.

Its unfortunate and sad that representatives of the media and groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch seem to show more solidarity with the accused terrorists than with the actual victims of terrorist attacks.

American sailors died in the sneak terror attack on the USS Cole and none of these groups are demanding justice for these sailors. I would have hoped that the national media would have been interested and present at this trial which effects our whole nation. Their absence at this trial is just not right.”

Update- Gary’s victim impact statement

AP: Gary Swenchonis Sr., whose son Gary was killed in the attack, said he was devastated by al-Bahlul’s video and by the fact that it has been widely available on the Internet. “It’s pervasive,” said Swenchonis, of Rockport, Texas, his voice thick with emotion. “That’s what’s so bad. That’s what’s so wrong.”

Miami Herald: ”Our son and his 16 mates were minding their own business, refueling in a supposedly friendly harbor and weren’t out to hurt anybody and were viciously attacked and murdered,” said Gary Swenchonis Sr., his hands shaking and voice trembling after using a cane to take the war court’s witness stand.

Update 2: Life.

Gitmo Detainees Dangerous

Filed under: gitmo — by Jane Novak at 1:00 am on Saturday, November 1, 2008

The following NYT article demonstrates that many of the remaining detainees are probably well trained terrorist operatives. Of the 250+ left in Gitmo, over 100 are Yemenis, some of whom were mid to high level within the organization.

November 3, 2008
Next President Will Face Test on Detainees
They were called the Dirty 30 — bodyguards for Osama bin Laden captured early in the Afghanistan war — and many of them are still being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Others still at the much-criticized detention camp there include prisoners who the government says were trained in assassination and the use of poisons and disguises.

One detainee is said to have been schooled in making detonators out of Sega game cartridges. A Yemeni who has received little public attention was originally selected by Mr. bin Laden as a potential Sept. 11 hijacker, intelligence officials say.

As the Bush administration enters its final months with no apparent plan to close the Guantánamo Bay camp, an extensive review of the government’s military tribunal files suggests that dozens of the roughly 255 prisoners remaining in detention are said by military and intelligence agencies to have been captured with important terrorism suspects, to have connections to top leaders of Al Qaeda or to have other serious terrorism credentials. (Read on …)

Gitmo Detainees Still in Limbo

Filed under: gitmo — by Jane Novak at 7:36 pm on Saturday, September 27, 2008

On the one hand, Yemen realy doesn’t do a good job keeping even convicted terrorists in jail. On the other hand, some of these guys have been cleared for release for over a year. On the third hand, al-Hitar’s program has a high recidivism rate.


SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 Assurances Sought Before Guantanamo Inmates Go
U.S. Fears Detainees Returning to Yemen Will Still Pose Threat

SANA’A, Yemen — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates — and both presidential candidates — have said they want to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Before that happens they will need to overcome U.S. concerns that members of the biggest block of terrorism suspects there, Yemeni nationals, won’t be properly monitored if they are sent home.

In a visit to Yemen over the weekend, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers discussed cooperation with the Yemeni government to establish a “facility” to receive released detainees, according to a news release on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. (Read on …)

Yemen-US Establish Re-Integration Center of Gitmo Detainees

Filed under: Yemen, gitmo — by Jane Novak at 11:23 am on Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gitmo with macrame and group.


Yemeni-US cooperation to re-qualify Guantanamo returnees

[11 September 2008]

SANA’A, Sep. 11 (Saba) – Yemen and US have made an agreement to establish a center to re-qualify Yemeni returnees from Guantanamo Camp.

Well-informed sources told the weekly 26 September that center to be established soon by a US financing would receive the Yemeni Guantanamo detainees and re-qualify them through holding technical and vocational workshops and training courses to merging them into the Yemeni society and acquiring them with the necessary skills to be able to participate in society development programs.

The intellectual, cultural and psychological treatments will be undertaken by the Yemeni side, according to the sources.

Yemen has presented a qualifying program to the returnees from Guantanamo, which has been accepted by the US administration. This acceptance contributed to overcoming the disagreements in the issue of releasing Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo.

About 100 Yemeni detainees are in the Guantanamo camp. Yemen government has demanded many times to be extradited.

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