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Review board weighs whether to release Guantanamo prisoner from Libya with battle wounds

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MIAMI — A Libyan prisoner at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with battlefield wounds made his initial appearance Tuesday before a review board that will decide whether he can be released after 13 years in custody.

Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker appeared by video-link from the base in Cuba before members of the Periodic Review Board in the United States. The board is charged with reconsidering whether it is still necessary to hold prisoners previously deemed too dangerous to release.

Khalif was captured by Pakistani security forces in March 2002 along with suspected al-Qaida figure Abu Zubaydah and was sent to Guantanamo five months later. He has not been charged with a crime. A profile released ahead of his review hearing says he was a senior member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who once worked for a company owned by Osama bin Laden who traveled to Afghanistan, where he "probably" trained other militants and fought against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces.

Military records show he is about 43 years old and one of four Libyans held at Guantanamo.

His lawyer told the Periodic Review Board there is no evidence Khalif had any direct role in attacks on the U.S. and he would not pose a threat if released.

The lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, also said prison is extremely difficult for Khalif because of his wounds. He lost part of a leg from a land mine explosion in Afghanistan in 1998 and his other leg was shattered in a construction site accident. He has shrapnel in his left arm and left leg, and he is blind in his left eye.

If the board approves his release, Khalif would join 51 other men held at Guantanamo who have been cleared to be freed and are waiting to be sent home or to a third country. The U.S. holds 116 prisoners at Guantanamo.

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