Finally Home from GTMO

July 14, 2010

Good news: the US Department of Defense announced yesterday that Mohammed al-Odaini has been transferred home to Yemen. He had been held at Guantanamo without charge for over eight years–since 2002, from age 18-26–despite the fact that he had been cleared for release in 2005.

On May 26, 2010, a US federal judge ordered the Obama administration to “take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps” to arrange the release of Mohammed al-Odaini. The US administration had until June 25, 2010 to respond.

Over that month, Amnesty International members emailed, wrote and called President Obama, Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton, urging them to comply with the judge’s order and release Mohammed al-Odaini. They did.

For years, Amnesty International members have taken action on Mohammed al-Odaini’s case, calling for him–and all other Guantanamo detainees–to either be charged with a crime and fairly tried, or be released.

Amnesty International USA Local Group 50 in Chicago, Local Group 139 in Wisconsin and Local Group 708 in Massachusetts adopted Mohammed al-Odaini’s case, and this past yearmore than 12,000 of you joined the Global Write-a-thon to write letters on behalf of Mohammed al-Odaini and other individuals at risk of severe human rights violations.

Many thanks to all of you who have campaigned on his behalf over the years.  Mohammed’s lawyer sent this message:

“Mr al-Odaini’s release is cause for celebration. After Judge Kennedy ruled in his favor, it was by no means clear that the government would release him, when the government would release him, or where the government would send him. We had an uphill fight. But with Amnesty International’s support–and your support–we persuaded the government to return Mr. al-Odaini to Yemen and reunite him with his family. Only the kind of broad public support Amnesty brings to bear could ensure such a happy ending. I cannot thank you enough.”

Mohammed al-Odaini’s case is far from being the exception. Approximately 50% of those who remain detained at Guantanamo are Yemeni nationals.

One of them is Saeed Mohammed Saleh Hatim. He has been held without charge in Guantánamo for eight years, and is still there more than six months after a US federal judge ruled his detention unlawful and ordered his release.

The judge found that the government’s allegations against him were based “almost entirely upon admissions made by the petitioner himself – admissions that the petitioner contends he made only because he had previously been tortured while in US custody.”

The government is appealing the judge’s ruling and it is not known when a final decision will be made.

Amnesty International has learned that Saeed Hatim’s father died recently. Saeed Hatim’s lawyer is calling on the US authorities to drop its appeal and allow him to return to Yemen to support his elderly mother.

Urge President Obama to comply with the judge’s order and release Saeed Hatim.