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U.S. panel urges Guantanamo inmate be transferred to Yemen

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. national security panel has recommended that an inmate held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison since 2002 be transferred to Yemen.

Ali Ahmad al-Razihi, a 33-year-old Yemeni, had once been suspected of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, a founder of the al Qaeda extremist group who was killed by U.S. forces in 2011.

But the Periodic Review Board, which is examining whether inmates should continue to be held without charge at the U.S. prison in Cuba, said his detention was no longer needed to protect U.S. security.

"The PRB recommends that the detainee be transferred with the standard security assurances ... and the conditions normally associated with conditional detention," the parole-style panel said in a summary of its decision dated Wednesday and posted on a Department of Defense website.

The board said al-Razihi's stated plans, commitment not to repeat mistakes, family support in Yemen, largely peaceful behavior as an inmate and lack of ties to at-large extremists were factors in the decision.

Al-Razihi's hometown of Taiz is also one of the more stable sites in Yemen, the decision said.

Pakistani forces captured al-Razihi in December 2001 while he fled bin Laden's hideout at Tora Bora, Afghanistan. He was put in U.S. custody and sent to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.

About 70 of the 154 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay cannot be prosecuted for various reasons, but are considered too dangerous to release.

The review board has ruled that one other Yemeni held at Guantanamo Bay be transferred home and a second remain in prison. More than half of those held at Guantanamo are Yemeni, according to a New York Times accounting based on WikiLeaks documents.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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