Fayez Al-Kandari
Fayez Al-Kandari

ARLINGTON, Virginia: A suspected Al-Qaeda recruiter held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison for 13 years faced a US national security board yesterday to determine if he is eligible to be transferred. Fayez Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kandari, a 38-year-old Kuwaiti, is suspected of being an Al-Qaeda propagandist and may have served as “spiritual adviser” to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a US Department of Defense profile. The hearing came as President Barack Obama’s administration drafts a plan to close the prison at a naval base in Cuba.

The proposal calls for transferring to US prisons inmates who are deemed too dangerous to release. The hearing before the parole-style Periodic Review Board was to weigh whether Kandari posed a threat to the United States. The Pentagon profile said Kandari had complied with officials at Guantanamo Bay since his last review in 2014, which was marked by an outburst by him during the hearing.

Twenty-five minutes of yesterday’s hearing were shown on a closed-circuit television link from Guantanamo Bay to a viewing site near the Pentagon. “For the first time since his detention began … he’s excited about seeing his family again,” Kandari’s personal representative said. According to Kandari’s lawyer, the release of his fellow Kuwaiti, Fawzi Al-Odah, last year was proof that Kuwait could handle Kandari’s release. The lawyer said the Kandari had learned English and was studying business. Kandari wore a white shirt and sat with his lawyer, military representative and other officials. The national security panel was not shown.

Eleven Guantanamo inmates have been transferred this year and 116 are still detained. Kuwait’s Ambassador in Washington Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Sabah hoped the US would reach a firm conclusion that Kandari poses no threat to American national security. Sheikh Salem was speaking to KUNA after the court hearing. Kandari’s performance was “good and he looked in a much better condition than the previous hearing that was held last year”, said Sheikh Salem.

The defense team did very well and the hearing “was excellent”, he added. He said the jury was fully briefed about preparations by Kuwait to admit Kandari into the Al-Salam Center, which was established within the Central Jail to rehabilitate him and integrate him back into society. Sheikh Salem said he was looking forward for good news in the coming few weeks that Kandari would be released following 13 years in detention.

Kandari’s defense attorney Eric Lewis explained to the jury the preparations of Kuwait over the Al- Salam Center and that Kandari was eager to return home and live a decent and responsible life with his family. Lewis said Kandari’s release hopes were high since the release of his compatriot Ouda last year. After Kandari’s previous hearing in June 2014, the jury decided to keep him behind bars because they believed he still had animosity towards the US and there was not enough information about the Al- Salam Center. — Agencies