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Biden gives 2 Guantanamo Bay detainees away to controversial country

Prisoners can be seen playing with a ball at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
February 27, 2023

The U.S. Department of Defense released two detainees of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Pakistan last week.

Abdul Rabbani, 55, and Mohammed Rabbani, 53, were both released on Thursday, according to a DoD press release

Abdul and Mohammed were brothers who were arrested together in Pakistan in 2002, transferred to Gauntanimo Bay in 2004 and released after more than 20 years in the detention camp, which has served as a lock up for terror suspects throughout the Global War on Terror. 

Both men were suspected of having ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist group, and specifically of operating a safehouse for the group, but neither man was ever charged and both were held in an extrajudicial detention.

Though never formally charged, the borthers were imprisoned under “enemy combatant status”.

In 2005, both brothers filed a habeas corpus petition to challenge the validity of their detentions, arguing that they were wrongly classified as “enemy combatants.” Their petition was unsuccessful.

The brothers protested their imprisonment throughout their more than two decades in U.S. custody, including through hunger strikes. Gauntanimo Bay prison officials ended these hunger strikes by intubating and force feeding the brothers. According to a 2014 report by the Guardian, during at least one occasion, one of the brothers vomited blood as a result of the forced feeding techniques used.

The brothers were finally released as the result of a Periodic Review Board (PRB), a review process established under President Barack Obama in 2011. This PRB was created to revisit the cases of Gauntanimo detainees, to determine if their “enemy combatant” statuses are still justified.

In May of 2021, the PRB determined Abdul Rabbani’s “enemy combatant” status was “no longer necessary” according to the DoD. The PRB made a similar determination about Mohammed Rabani in August of 2021.

Last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin notified Congress of his intent to return the brothers to the government of their home country, Pakistan.

As of the release of the Rabbani brothers,, 32 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay. 18 detainees are eligible for transfer and three for PRB review. Nine detainees remain in the military commissions process for a trial and two detainees have been convicted in military trials.