Mon, August 15, 2016
Cleared Yemeni prisoner Mohsen Aboassy,* 37, has today been released from the US prison at Guantánamo Bay to be resettled in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohsen (pictured left), a longtime client of international human rights organization Reprieve, had been detained without charge or trial since 2002. He was cleared for release in 2009 – with the unanimous agreement of six US federal agencies, including the CIA, FBI and Departments of State and Defense – but as a Yemeni refugee had no safe place to go.
Mohsen grew up in a large family in the southern coastal town of Muqela in Yemen. When he was 18, his mother died and Mohsen got a job as a traffic police officer to support his sick father and siblings. Struggling on his modest income, he moved to Afghanistan to find better work in 2001. In December of that year, his village was raided by bounty hunters; Mohsen was taken to Kandahar military base and to Guantánamo on 10 February 2002.
Mohsen was released today in a group of 15 prisoners, 12 Yemenis and three Afghans. Guantánamo’s large Yemeni population has been a perennial problem for President Obama; many have been cleared for almost a decade, but the war-torn country has been deemed too unstable to receive them. Today was the single largest prisoner transfer by the Obama Administration, leaving 61 prisoners in Guantánamo.
Mohsen is grateful to the United Arab Emirates for offering him a home, and is keen to get a job as soon as he can. He told his Reprieve attorney, Shelby Sullivan Bennis, in a recent call: “I would like to be a carpenter. I used to work like one here at Gitmo so I have learned things. I have used cardboard to make things like shelves and desks and so on. Making these things out of cardboard is very difficult. Outside, I will have wood and tools to make things so it will be easier.”
Mohsen’s attorney at Reprieve U.S., Shelby Sullivan Bennis, said: “Mohsen, whose favorite movie is Kung Fu Panda, has never, for a moment, been a threat to our national security — something the Obama administration realized nine long years ago when it cleared him for release. Yet there he languished, a fate lived by many Yemeni detainees, while the government took its time finding him a suitable country in which to resettle. It is to his credit that he is full of enthusiasm; excited about his new life in the United Arab Emirates, about reconnecting with his family and about becoming a carpenter. How many of us could cope so well with such a senseless ordeal? What might Mohsen have achieved had he not lost fifteen years of his life? How many more lives are going to be wasted at Guantanamo Bay?”
On a recent call, Mohsen Aboassy told his Reprieve attorney: “Over the time that I have been in Guantánamo, thirteen children have been born in my family. I miss playing with my nephews and nieces. I have a photograph of them and when I get sad, I look at the photo to cheer myself up. After almost fourteen years in Guantánamo I realize that when I leave this place it will just be a bad memory. Determination, will, and ambition will overcome any ordeal and any difficulty.”
*Mohsel’s name has also been translated as Abdul al Saleh, Abdel al-Saleh, and.
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140.