Families yearning for return of Guantanamo detainees

Mohamad Nazir Lep (left) and Mohd Farik.

PETALING JAYA: Octogenarian Mohd Amin Anan is clinging on to life, hoping against hope he will be able to see his son, Mohd Farik, before he dies.

Farik, 41, has been in US custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba since 2006 for suspected involvement in terrorism, and according to a New Straits Times (NST) report, Farik’s chance of being transferred home anytime soon, is “not encouraging”, as he remains radicalised.

Mohd Amin, who could barely stand when interviewed at his home in Kajang recently, is praying Putrajaya finds a way to bring Farik back home to be rehabilitated.

“I accept it (if he’s detained here). At least, he will be close to his family.

“If not, I may not be able to see him. I am 80 now and I have no idea how long I can wait for him.”

Mohd Amin said he has no clue when his son’s radicalisation process began.

The last he saw Farik was in 1999 when the latter was working at the Subang International Airport, and sought his permission to learn about religion.

Two days later, Farik left in a car with three friends and the family only heard about his arrest in Thailand five years later, after the tsunami in 2004.

It was only then that they learnt that Farik had gone to Afghanistan to get involved in militant activities in 2000, and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

“When I was informed of the arrest, I was shocked because he was such a good boy. He never went out much with his friends. He only went to work and came home,” Mohd Amin recalled.

Farik was arrested in June 2003, while Mohamad Nazir Lep, who is the other Malaysian in Guantanamo, was picked up two months later.

Both men had become friends while studying at the Politeknik Sultan Abdul Halim, and following their arrests, both were classified as “enemy combatants’ by the US and sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2006.

The report said that both Farik and Nazir had been recruited by Indonesian Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah leader Riduan Isamuddin aka Hambali, to join the group’s suicide missions.

According to the report, the US Periodic Review Board’s review on Farik has shown that he was still “susceptible to be recruited by extremists”, and that he believed that operations targetting the US military are legitimate.

As for Nazir, 40, he stands a better chance of being transferred home as the same review had said that it “looked forward to reviewing Nazir’s case in six months” and that it “encouraged efforts on his behalf to engage with Nazir’s family and the Malaysian government” on his possible transfer.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had also last month revealed that Washington was ready to negotiate Nazir’s transfer home.

NST also spoke to Nazir’s elder brother Zahbah Lep, who said that his brother’s arrest and detention drove their mother to an early death in 2009.

Zahbah is looking forward to the possibility of having his brother imprisoned here, as “at least, we can visit him”.

Zahbah too had no idea that his brother was gravitating towards extremism, and said had he known, he would have put a stop to it “there and then”.

Special Branch director Mohamad Fuzi Harun said Kuala Lumpur and Washington are set to negotiate the “best mechanism” for the repatriation of both detainees, or at least one of them, from Guantanamo.

Fuzi said if such a transfer did take place, the two would be made to go through a vigorous de-radicalisation programme here to get them back on the right path.

Even if such programmes fail to rehabilitate the detainees, they can still be detained under laws such as the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), Security Offences and Special Measures Act (Sosma) and Penal Code, he added.

Fuzi said attempts to bring the duo back home started several years back and the government had never given up on the effort.

“At the end of the day, I feel that it is our moral obligation to bring them back.”

US President Barack Obama, who is set to leave office in a few months, has reiterated that one of his goals before leaving the White House is to shut down Guantanamo.