Even as the White House pledges to empty the prison camps at Guantanamo, a 30-year-old prisoner is so afraid of returning to his native Tajikistan that he is asking to stay at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
Umar Abdulayev was brought to Guantanamo in the earliest crude Camp X-Ray days. Now, ''he's told us he'd rather stay another seven years in Guantanamo than go back to Tajikistan,'' says Chicago attorney Matthew J. O'Hara.
So while O'Hara has argued, like other detainees' lawyers, that his client is wrongly imprisoned, an innocent swept up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, the lawyer is trying to resist an Obama administration plan to send him to his homeland.
Abdulayev fled civil war in his homeland at age 13. He claims in court filings that he was visited by Tajik intelligence agents during his U.S. detention with a sinister offer: Spy on Muslim radicals in the former Soviet Republic in exchange for his release. When Abdulayev refused, the detainee claims, the agents threatened retribution.
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Now, a Justice Department-led panel sorting through Guantanamo detainee files has decided to let the Tajik go. Government lawyers notified U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on June 3 that they will no longer defend his detention, and want U.S. diplomats to arrange to repatriate him.
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