Abdul Latif Nasser in Akhbar al-Yawm (Morocco)

May 6, 2020

Image of Abdul Latif with a page from the dictionary behind him

On April 27, 2020, one of Morocco’s leading newspapers, Akhbar al-Yawm, published a front page article about Abdul Latif Nasser, featuring an interview with Abdul Latif’s brother Mustafa. The below is a translation from Arabic.

New information on the last Moroccan in Guantánamo Bay

Akhbar al-Yawn obtained new information about Abdul Latif Nasser, the last Moroccan held in Guantanamo. His brother Mustafa, who lives in Casablanca, tells us about the last time he saw his brother, and how he travelled to Libya in the 1980s, then to Sudan, then to Saudi Arabia, before news of him stopped arriving. Abdul Latif Nasser, 54, has spent 18 years in an American prison without trial since his arrest in Afghanistan in 2001. His case was taken on by the British organisation Reprieve, which launched a campaign for his release to return him to Morocco.

Mustafa Nasser tells Akhbar Al-Yawm that his brother was the youngest in the family. “He was a smart young man who combined the study of Islamic science and mathematics at the Faculty of Sciences in Casablanca.” But after completing his second year, he decided in the mid-1980s to complete his studies abroad. Mustafa remembers that his brother told him he wanted to complete studies in Australia, but he needed money. He had to travel to Libya where his older brother worked and stayed there for a while. It was the last time Mustafa saw his brother Nasser, but the phone calls did not stop. Then Nasser travelled to Sudan, “He stayed there for a long time”, then moved to Saudi Arabia, and informed his family that he would return soon.

In Saudi Arabia, however, contact with him was lost, and his family no longer knew his fate. This happened in the late 1990s. Mustafa told Akhbar Al-Yawm that his brother “was out of contact for nearly four years and we did not know whether he was dead or alive.” This remained the case until workers in the Red Cross knocked on the family’s home in Casablanca in 2001, to report that Abdul Latif was being held at Guantánamo prison, after the events of 11 September.

The family was shocked by the news, Mustafa says: “We did not know that he had gone to Afghanistan.” But then it became possible to communicate with him from the prison by phone once a month, after a lawyer contacted the family. 

According to what Nasser told the British organization “Reprieve”, which fights for his release, he travelled there to work. Northern Alliance fighters arrested him, and he was tortured and sold in exchange for a financial reward from the American forces.

The US military held him at Bagram air base and in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for three months, and he was tortured. In March 2001 he was transferred to Guantánamo, where he has been held without charge or trial ever since.

Reprieve says: “All the American allegations against Abdul Latif have lost their credibility with the passage of years,” because they have used testimonies “obtained from interrogations using torture.” Also, the main witnesses who testified against him were persuaded to believe that Abdul- Latif had died.

The organisation stresses that Abdul Latif “has never been tried,” and therefore none of the “alleged evidence” that the United States has relied on to justify his detention over the past eighteen years will be admissible in court “because it is contaminated with torture.”

In Guantánamo, he was held from 2005 to 2007 in solitary confinement in a dungeon without windows, unable to communicate with a lawyer. He was deprived of any of the basic forms of due process rights.

From 2009 to 2011, Abdul Latif was held in a separate camp inside Guantánamo, again in complete isolation. The organisation says that the guards shaved his head and beard.

Abdul Latif went on hunger strike at least twice, to protest the conditions of his detention. 

The organisation mentioned that Abdul Latif Nasser is an avid reader of books. He also wrote a dictionary (Arabic-English) consisting of 2000 words by hand during his arrest. His dictionary became popular with guards and detainees at the base. In addition to reading novels and short stories, he also reads self-help books on how to foster positive relationships.

On July 12, 2016, he was authorised to leave by six US intelligence agencies. However, he was not released to return to his country, Morocco.

In November 2016, four months after Abdul Latif was cleared for transfer, Donald Trump won the US presidential election. On January 3, 2017, two weeks before his inauguration as President of the United States, he posted on Twitter: “No more detainees at Guantánamo should be released.”

Because of this, Reprieve says, Abdul Latif is still stuck in Guantánamo, “subject to the whims of the president, who explicitly approved indefinite detention without trial, and who sanctioned the use of torture and war crimes.”

The organisation notes that Abdul Latif’s case was brought up to the Periodic Review Board (PRB) – made up of senior representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Security, Justice, and Defense, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – in June 2016.

Abdul Latif’s defence presented videos and messages from his family in Morocco, showing that they were ready to welcome him to his home. A room in the family’s home in Casablanca was prepared for him, and a job was set up for him in his brother’s company.

These American government bodies unanimously agreed that he would be transferred to Morocco after assessing that “he poses no threat.” The periodic review board decided that Abdul Latif “has many ways to obtain support when transporting to Morocco, including the availability of a stable family … realistic job opportunities and economic support”, and praised his efforts to educate himself while in Guantanamo through classroom and self-study.

In July 2016, Abdul Latif received confirmation that he “succeeded” during his meeting with the periodic review board. The organisation says that Abdul Latif “wept with joy” upon hearing the decision.

The organisation notes that a “regrettable” series of “bureaucratic” delays occurred, meaning the United States was unable to obtain relevant information from the Moroccan government to ensure Abdul Latif’s safe passage to his homeland.

By the time the information was obtained, Donald Trump had won the election, but he had not taken office yet. Although US laws require the Secretary of Defense to give Congress 30 days before a person is transferred from Guantánamo, this notice was not provided before Trump entered the White House.

Mustafa Nasser reports that he has received visits by American journalists, who are investigating his brother Nasser, and he was asked about the guarantees that he will provide to his brother if he returns to Morocco. “My answer was that I was ready to put in all the guarantees, but only on condition that my brother was in a healthy mental state,” he said.

In recent years, the harsh confinement of Nasser was eased, and it became possible for his family to talk to him and see him through WhatsApp technology for a longer period. “We were even able to send Moroccan spices to him.” Mustafa says his brother is in good health, plays sports, reads books and has sees the “good” in American soldiers in prison. Mustafa also confirms that he is ready to receive his brother, provide him with housing and work in his company. “We are eagerly waiting for his return to marry him and rejoice with him,” he said.