Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, the only Kenyan being held at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, wants to do charity work after release.
The 48-year-old father of three was arrested in February 2007 on suspicion of terrorism in Mombasa and was transferred to Guantanamo on March 26, 2007.
He has been held at the facility for 15 years, but was never been charged with any terrorism-related offences, his lawyer Mark Maher said.
Maher is an attorney working for Reprieve US, a non-profit legal charity in Washington DC.
Last December, the US government ordered Malik be released from Guantanamo Bay after a successful review of his charges by the Periodic Review Board.
PRB is composed of senior officials from the US Departments of Defence, Homeland Security, Justice and National Intelligence.
The board reviews whether continued detention of particular individuals held at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the US.
The PRB concluded that Abdul Malik could be safely transferred to another country.
This is in light of his “low level of training and lack of a leadership role in his pre-detention activities”, according to PRB.
According to the PRB, once a detainee is cleared for release, he cannot leave the prison until the US works out a diplomatic arrangement with another country for them to be released to.
In an exclusive interview with the Star, Maher said Malik has insisted that he wants to come back to Kenya after his release.
He said at detention, Malik has proven to be “a kind and thoughtful human being.”
“Despite spending so long in one of history’s most notorious prisons, Abdul Malik is focused on the future – he is excited to see his family once again and to spend his life focused on positivity and charity,” Maher said.
“I am looking forward to the day when we can celebrate his freedom.”
According to Maher, Malik’s transfer to Kenya is being negotiated between the American and the Kenyan authorities.
Reprieve US acts as a partner to the governments because they have assisted over 60 former detainees after their release from Guantanamo .
“We hope the governments (Kenya and US) will move swiftly. Abdul Malik has never been charged with a crime, so his return home is long overdue,” Maher said.
Malik’s family is anxious about his return to Kenya and has been calling on the government to assure him of his safety once he is back.
Maher said Malik’s details of the transfer are determined between the United States and Kenyan governments.
“We understand that the US always secures humanitarian assurances prior to transfer. I certainly hope that Abdul Malik’s security will be assured,” he said.
“Fifteen years of detention without charge or trial is punishment enough for anyone.”
There have also been reports that Malik might be transferred to another country that is willing to accept him, if the Kenyan authorities will deny him entry.
“Abdul Malik is a son of Kenya who has been illegally detained by the United States,” Maher said.
“He wants to return to his home and to his family and spend the rest of his life as a proud and happy Kenyan. That’s what we are aiming for.”
Early April this year, Maher was in Kenya and had an opportunity to meet with Malik’s family.
Maher said his family is very anxious about his return and confused as to why it has not happened yet.
“For 15 years, they have been kept in limbo. Abdul Malik has never been charged with any crime and yet the United States has kept him in prison,” he said.
“That is difficult for any family member to understand. But for now, they are trying to remain positive and look forward to his return.”
Malik’s wife and three children are said to be living in Somalia and his siblings are living in Mombasa.
Maher said there are plans to reunite Malik and his wife and children once he is allowed back to Kenya.
“That is his (Abdul Malik’s) goal, but we will have to work out those details after his release. The first step is to get him out of Guantanamo and end his 15-year incarceration,” he said.
“We will continue to work with Abdul Malik after his release to ensure he is supported and able to live a happy life with his family.”
Malik was being held as “a law-of-war detainee” at the Guantanamo maximum security facility.
He is allowed to talk to his family once every three months.
He was the only Kenyan captive held at the US military base, which is used to detain suspected militants and terrorists captured by US forces.
Another suspect who is set to be released from Guantanamo is a Somali national, Guled Hassan Duran, who has been held at the facility since 2006.
Since 2002, roughly 780 detainees have been held at the facility with only 39 currently remaining at the prison.
Of the 39 detainees, 12 have been charged with war crimes in the military commission’s system, while 10 are awaiting trial and two have been convicted.
In addition, nine detainees are held in indefinite law-of-war detention and are neither facing tribunal charges nor being recommended for release.
Another 18 are held in law-of-war detention, but have been recommended for transfer with security arrangements to another country.
Following Joe Biden’s election, his administration has confirmed that they intend to finally close the US’s most infamous prison.
While no one has yet been released since Biden assumed office, five men have been cleared for transfer in a strenuous process by the PRB.