MIAMI (AP) — A man held at Guantanamo Bay who was previously deemed too dangerous to release has been re-evaluated by a U.S. government panel reviewing cases as part of an effort to close the prison, officials said Thursday.
The six-member board decided that Mahmud Mujahid, who has been held at Guantanamo since January 2002, no longer poses a "continuing significant threat" to the United States and is eligible for transfer out of the U.S. base in Cuba, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Mujahid, who was accused of being an al-Qaida fighter and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden although never charged with a crime, was one of dozens of men designated as too dangerous to release but could not be prosecuted for reasons such as a lack of evidence or jurisdiction. President Barack Obama directed authorities to review their cases as part of a renewed effort to close the prison, where the U.S. holds 155 men.
Mujahid, 33, was the first prisoner to go before the review board. He appeared with his lawyer and two personal representatives by video link from the base in Cuba with representatives of six government agencies in Washington.
His lawyer, David Remes, welcomed the news.
"It's been a long time coming," Remes said. "He never should have been held and now after 12 years he should be reunited with his family. There is no longer any excuse for keeping him at Guantanamo."
No decision has been made on when Mujahid would be released from Guantanamo, said Army Lt. Col Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman.
The U.S. previously banned any transfers of prisoners to Yemen because of instability in the Mideast country. Obama has since said future releases there would be made on a case-by-case basis.
Of nearly 80 prisoners at Guantanamo cleared for transfer or release, more than 50 are from Yemen.