Recently-released Wikileaks cables reveal that the Maldivian government in 2004 assured the United States that former Guantanamo prisoner Ibrahim Fauzee would not be able to leave the Maldives.
In a cable dated 2 August 2004, then Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Shihab told then-US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead that the Maldives was “prepared to cooperate fully with [the US] in dealing with the detainee,” and at a minimum, the Maldivian government would put Fauzee under “close surveillance” and “on a watch list to ensure that he could not leave the country.”
The cable added: “Shihab noted that with the Maldives as an island nation, this would be effective in preventing him from traveling, unless, Shihab said, ‘he is very good at rowing.'”
Fauzee, of Thudhaadhoo island in Baa atoll, was originally arrested in Karachi, Pakistan during a raid on his landlord’s house. Files accessed through a collection of Wikileaks documents at UK’s The Guardian said the raid “just missed a group of Al Qaeda members who had gathered at the home for a meeting.”
Fauzee was then sent to Afghanistan, where he was handed over to US forces. According to a US Department of Defense file published by UK’s The Telegraph, Fauzee was identified as a “medium threat to the US, its interests, and its allies” when he arrived at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba on August 5 2002.
The Telegraph Online published a document from the Department of Defense, dated 11 November 2003, suggested that suspicion of terrorist involvement was based on Fauzee’s recent travel and expenditure record. “[Fauzee] has traveled extensively in spite of his limited income and has failed to explain adequately the source(s) of the funds he used for travel. Detainee also attended a fundamentalist madrassa.”
The New York Times also published a document from the Combatant Status Review Board dated 13 December 2004. The document claims that Fauzy was detained at Guantanamo because his telephone number was discovered in another terrorist detainee’s pocket. The number was allegedly associated with “a Sudanese teacher who assisted Arabs traveling to training camps in Afghanistan.”
According to the cables, Maldivian Permanent Secretary Ahmed Shaheed requested that the United States share any intelligence it had gained from Fauzee on 5 November 2002. The cable noted that the Maldivian government “may have made similar requests via other channels”, but there is no evidence of any response to these requests.
“Shaheed specifically asked for any information on ties Fauzee may have with other Maldivian nationals,” read the cable. “In this regard, Shaheed also requested that the Maldivian government be permitted to conduct its own intelligence interview of Fauzee.”
Eighteen days later, cables show that Shaheed wrote to US officials requesting Fauzee’s release.
By August 2003, Maldivian government personnel were granted a visit to Guantanamo and an interview with Fauzee. The government’s assessment found Fauzee an unlikely threat, and after further investigation the Maldivian government requested his release on 5 November 2003.
No action was taken, although cables indicate at least one more request for Fauzee’s return was made on 11 May 2004.
By late 2004, the US government had agreed to return Fauzee to the Maldives under certain conditions. A cable dated 13 December of that year shows the Maldivian Foreign Ministry was interested in cooperating with these conditions, which included humane treatment upon release.
“Following the release of Mr. Ibrahim Fauzee from US military detention in Guantanamo Bay and upon his return to the Maldives, the Government of Maldives undertakes to treat him humanely in accordance with the laws, and its international obligations.”
The Maldivian government also agreed to enter Fauzee “into relevant national and international watch lists and to apply every measure consistent with its laws to keep him under surveillance, to monitor his movements, and if necessary and appropriate, to restrict them, in order to prevent him from actively engaging in terrorism related activities or associating himself with terrorist organizations.”
On the same date, the US Combatant Status Review Board offered Fauzee a chance to contest his status as an enemy combatant.
Three and a half months later, the US government determined Fauzee “to no longer be an enemy combatant.” Fauzee was extradited to the Maldives on 11 March 2005, where he is currently president of local religious NGO, the Islamic Foundation.
Fauzee is the only Maldivian on record to be detained at Guantanamo Bay. After his release from Guantanamo, Fauzee discovered that his vital documents, which Pakistani authorities had seized during his arrest in 2002, were not in his possession. Since May 2005, the Maldivian government and Human Rights Commission have requested their return from the US government. Fauzee told Minivan News today that his documents were returned to him, but declined to comment on the release of the Wikileaks cables.
The cables were released on Friday, September 2 along with tens of thousands from countries with which the US has difficult relationships, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Files on Guantanamo prisoners were among those released. Since the release, the Wikileaks website has crashed repeatedly due to high traffic.