You're Free to Go Now...Just Kidding!

November 20, 2008

Can someone please explain this to me? How is it OK to arrest someone, send them to Guantánamo, keep them there a couple years, clear them for release, and then not let them leave? Among all the things that confuse and upset me about the way the US government has dealt with the detainees at Guantánamo, the situation of Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini is one of the most baffling.

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini  © Private
Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

A Yemeni national, he was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan, where he had gone to study Islamic law. In 2005, US authorities declared him suitable for release, and Yemeni authorities indicated that they were willing to take him back. But now it’s almost 2009, and Odaini is still stuck in Guantánamo. This situation does not appear to be complicated. Unlike some other Guantánamo detainees, it’s not as if Odaini would be at risk of torture if he returned to Yemen, and it’s clear that he’d be welcomed there. What’s the holdup??

Odaini’s lawyer says “For all he knows, he could be there for the rest of his life.” I really hope this isn’t true, and that Odaini is not feeling totally hopeless.