US Considers Releasing Last Russian at Guantanamo to UK

Guantanamo guards keep watch over a cell block with detainees in Camp 6 maximum-security facility, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. NavalBase, Cuba.

MIAMI — The last Russian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay asked a review board Tuesday to approve his release and allow him to join his family in the U.K.

Ravil Mingazov appeared by video link from the U.S. base in Cuba before members of the Periodic Review Board in the Washington area to make his case for release after nearly 14 years of custody.

Mingazov, 48, is a former ballet dance and member of the Russian military whom U.S. authorities have accused of fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. A Pentagon profile released before his hearing also says he is believed to have links to an Islamic group in Uzbekistan with ties to al-Qaida and was captured in Pakistan at a safe house associated with Abu Zubaydah, a "facilitator" for the terrorist organization.

Washington-based attorney Gary Thompson said he has gotten to know the prisoner well over the past 10 years and that he poses no threat. "I believe and know Ravil to be a kind and peaceful man who, if released, will do no harm to anyone," he told the board in a written statement.

His lawyers are asking the board to allow him to settle in Nottingham, England, where his son and other family members live under political asylum.

The Russian government has criticized his confinement and said he should be returned to his homeland. But the Pentagon profile says he does not want to return, possibly because he fears facing criminal charges there. Mingazov has told officials he left Russia because of the treatment of Muslims there.

Mingazov "maintains a strong disdain for the Russian government and does not want to be repatriated, claiming his treatment in Guantanamo is better than the treatment he received in Russia," the document says.

The U.S. has held about nine Russian citizens at Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002 to hold people with suspected ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. There are 80 prisoners still held at the base, including 30 who are approved for release, most of whom will begin to leave in the coming weeks.

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