As controversy grows over the release of five hardened Taliban detainees in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Obama administration is considering springing yet another prisoner from Guantanamo Bay.
Fouzi Khalid Abdullah al-Awda appeared via a video feed before a review board Wednesday morning in northern Virginia, often smiling as his private counsel Eric Lewis made the case for his release.
Al-Awda has been held prisoner for 12 years. According to Defense Department officials and his official Guantanamo detainee profile, he traveled from his home in Kuwait to Afghanistan just before the 9/11 attacks to train in terrorist camps, and “possibly” fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Al-Awda maintains he only went to Afghanistan for “humanitarian reasons to provide alms for the poor and to teach the Koran.”
The deliberations follow the administration’s controversial decision to free five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl over the weekend. Lawmakers say the former prisoners are high-risk and were among the most sought-after detainees by Taliban leadership. There are now 149 detainees left at Guantanamo, which President Obama has struggled to close since taking office in 2009.
Al-Awda’s attorney, though, argued his client poses “no continuing significant security threat to the United States.” He said his client, if released, would be sent back to Kuwait and immediately put into a rehab facility for at least one year — though he could be allowed to leave during daytime hours in as early as six months.