Yesterday, the Obama administration announced that it had released Ahmed Zuhair from Guanatanamo Bay’s prison and transferred him to Saudi Arabia’s terrorist rehabilitation program. The Los Angeles Times informs its readers why exactly we held Zuhair at Gitmo for as long as we did. Zuhair was involved in the murder of an American working for the UN in Bosnia in 1995:
The detainees were sent back to Saudi Arabia, their home country, where officials will review their cases before sending them to a rehabilitation program. One of them was identified as Ahmed Zuhair, a relatively high profile detainee who, has been protesting his detention since 2005 through a hunger strike and has been force-fed liquid nutrients.
During a hearing in Guantanamo in October 2004, Zuhair was accused of involvement in the 1995 killing in Bosnia-Herzegovina of William Jefferson, a U.S. official with the United Nations. At the tribunal, U.S. officials said Jefferson’s watch was found on Zuhair.
Zuhair also was convicted in absentia by a Bosnian court in a 1997 car bombing in the town of Mostar. He also allegedly told another detainee he was involved in the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in 2000, according to evidence presented at a Guantanamo proceeding.
There was a time in American history where the murder of US citizen, and especially a diplomat for the US or UN, would mean a relentless search and doom for the perpetrators. Apparently, those days have long since disappeared, perhaps about the time the US repeatedly offered its hospitality to Yasser Arafat, also implicated in the murder of an American diplomat in the 1970s. Now, even when we have one in custody, we release them. Great deterrent; I wonder how the diplomatic corps feels about this development.
Zuhair wasn’t just a random Afghani or Saudi picked up by accident. By his own admission, he participated in the bombing of the USS Cole, and the Bosnians want him for a terrorist attack there, apart from his involvement in the murder of William Jefferson. Why not give him to the Bosnians instead, even if we were inclined to release him at all?
The Obama administration has all but surrendered to al-Qaeda with these releases. If the murderer of an American UN worker and a participant in the USS Cole bombing can get set free, then who would Obama keep in custody? The administration is rapidly making membership in al-Qaeda and participation in terrorism against the US a no-risk proposition. (via Thomas Joscelyn, whose post should be read in full)
Update: More on Zuhair and his organization in Bosnia, the Saudi High Commission, here:
The SHC, while participating in some legitimate charitable functions, uses its cover to ship illicit goods, drugs, and weapons in and out of Bosnia. In May 1997, a French military report concludes: ”(T)he Saudi High Commission, under cover of humanitarian aid, is helping to foster the lasting Islamization of Bosnia by acting on the youth of the country. The successful conclusion of this plan would provide Islamic fundamentalism with a perfectly positioned platform in Europe and would provide cover for members of the bin Laden organization.” [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 69-71]
However, the US will take no action until shortly after 9/11, when it will lead a raid on the SHC’s Bosnia offices. Incriminating documents will be found, including information on how to counterfeit US State Department ID badges, and handwritten notes about meetings with bin Laden. Evidence of a planned attack using crop duster planes is found as well. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 129, 284] Yet even after all this, the Bosnian government will still refuse to shut down SHC’s offices and they apparently remain open (see January 25, 2002).
Good luck on the rehab program with this hardened AQ operative. He’ll be back in Europe as soon as possible.