September 8, 2014, New York, NY. Amin al-Bakri has finally been reunited with his family in his homeland of Yemen. The Yemeni national had been imprisoned by the U.S. military at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan for over a decade without charge, access to legal counsel, or a meaningful opportunity to challenge his imprisonment. The U.S. government transferred him to Yemeni custody on August 25, 2014, and Yemeni authorities released him to his family three days later, the family has just confirmed. Fadi al-Maqaleh, the other Yemeni prisoner at Bagram, was also released and reunited with his family on the same day as Mr. al-Bakri. The men’s transfer from Bagram to Yemen marked the first time the U.S. government has repatriated Yemeni nationals from an overseas military prison since 2010.
Mr. al-Bakri’s freedom comes after years of litigation – including an August 11, 2014 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court – to secure habeas corpus, a basic protection currently afforded to detainees at Guantánamo but not at Bagram. Main Street Legal Services, Inc. (MSLS), which is the clinical arm of CUNY School of Law, is lead counsel for Mr. al-Bakri. The International Justice Network (IJN) also represents Mr. al-Bakri and his family, as well as Mr. al-Maqaleh and his family, and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School has supported legal efforts.
Volunteer IJN attorney Caitlin Steinke noted the role played by the Yemeni government: “We appreciate the Yemeni authorities’ efforts to secure the repatriation of Mr. al-Bakri and Mr. al-Maqaleh, and especially the respectful manner in which the men were released to their families.”
Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni businessman, was unlawfully seized by U.S. agents during a 2002 business trip in Thailand, while he was on his way to celebrate his birthday with his wife and children in Yemen. Between his abduction and his eventual imprisonment at Bagram, he was held and tortured at secret U.S. prisons. As a result of his ordeal in U.S. custody, Mr. al-Bakri suffers from multiple illnesses and injuries.
Earlier this year, while still being held virtually incommunicado at Bagram, Mr. al-Bakri was diagnosed with leukemia. “A U.S. Defense Department official divulged this confidential medical information to the press before Amin’s family even had the opportunity to see their loved one for the first time since his 2002 abduction,” said Tina M. Foster, Attorney and Executive Director of IJN. Counsel for Mr. al-Bakri urged U.S. authorities in recent months to release him so he could obtain proper treatment. He is now receiving the medical care he so urgently needs, surrounded by his loving and supportive family.
“Amin al-Bakri’s return to freedom and family is years overdue. Witnessing his resilience and that of his loved ones over the years, in the face of what can only be described as cruel and unrelenting injustice, has inspired me and the many law students who have represented Amin,” said Professor Ramzi Kassem, who has served as Mr. al-Bakri’s lead counsel since 2008 and directs the Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic at MSLS. “Now that Amin’s suffering at Bagram has finally ended, it is time to wipe out the practice of indefinite detention everywhere.”