Mohsen Aboassy, 37, comes from the southern coastal town of Muqela in Yemen. He was imprisoned without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay from February 2002, when he was taken to the prison on one of the first planes that landed there, until his release in August 2016.
In 2009, Mohsen was cleared for release by six federal agencies of the US – a process that involves the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Defense agreeing that a prisoner poses no threat. Despite this, he continued to be held in Guantánamo for seven more years.
Mohsen grew up in a large family in Yemen. Life was not easy – Mohsen’s mother died when he was still young, and his father was very ill, so Mohsen began work at 18 as a traffic police officer to support his family. In early 2001, struggling to keep a roof over their heads on his modest income alone, Mohsen moved to Afghanistan to find work.
After the attacks of 9/11, the United States promised bounty payments of up to $5,000 to local people for capturing ‘foreigners’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan – an amount that was equivalent to multiple years’ worth of salaries. In December 2001, the village Mohsen was staying in was raided by bounty hunters. He was taken to the US prison at the Kandahar military base, and detained there for two months before being brought to Guantánamo on 10 February 2002.
Throughout his time at Guantánamo, Mohsen endured a series of abuses. He was never charged with a crime, or given a trial. Having been subjected to the injustice of his indefinite detention, including for years after his clearance, Mohsen has now been released to the United Arab Emirates. He hopes to be reunited with his family and to resume a normal life.
In a call with his lawyers at Reprieve, Mohsen had said:
I miss playing with my nephews and nieces. I have a photograph of them and when I get sad, I look at the photo to cheer myself up. Over the time that I have been in Guantánamo, thirteen children have been born in my family. Whenever I talked to my family on the phone, I usually ended up talking to about 35 people, and 25 of those would be children! I got to joke and have fun with them. I really miss that.
Mohsen would like nothing more than to rebuild his life, start his own family and make up for the years he has lost whilst imprisoned at Guantánamo:
After almost fourteen years in Guantánamo I realise that when I leave this place it will just be a bad memory. My determination, will, and ambition will overcome any ordeal and any difficulty.
Mohsen’s release from Guantánamo shows what we can achieve, but many more need our help.