In another of his trademark lengthy, rambling speeches carried on state television, Gaddafi continued to claim that there are no peaceful Libyan protests, only al-Qaeda-backed efforts to tear the country apart. He blamed the problems on former prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who were released to Libya and then freed by Libyan authorities after they pledged to reform. He said they turned out to be members of al Qaeda sleeper cells -- but insisted that his country is "stopping al- Qaeda from flourishing" and preventing Osama bin Laden from moving into North Africa.
They included a former Guantánamo prisoner transferred to Libyan custody nearly three years ago, in October 2007, named by AFP as Abu Sofian Ben Guemou, and by Reuters as Sofiane Ibrahim Gammu. Reuters noted that media reports had “quoted an official in the Gaddafi Foundation as saying Gammu was a former driver for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden,” but as he left the prison on Tuesday, he stated, “I am not bin Laden’s driver. It’s a misunderstanding.”This was almost certainly true. Identified in Guantánamo as Abu Sufian Hamouda or Abu Sufian bin Qumu, his story, as revealed in publicly available documents, suggests that the bin Laden connection was only relevant in relation to a job that he took in Sudan for a company owned by bin Laden, when the al-Qaeda leader was involved in construction work and other activities unrelated to terrorism between 1992 and 1996, prior to his expulsion from Sudan and his return to Afghanistan.As Hamouda explained in Guantánamo (and as I reported at the time of his transfer to Libyan custody):
[H]e had served in the Libyan army as a tank driver from 1979 to 1990, but was “arrested and jailed on multiple occasions for drug and alcohol offenses.” Having apparently escaped from prison in 1992, he fled to Sudan, where he worked as a truck driver. In an attempt to beef up the evidence against him, the Department of Defense alleged that the company he worked for, the Wadi al-Aqiq company, was “owned by Osama bin Laden,” and also attempted to claim that he joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group … even while admitting that an unidentified “al-Qaeda/LIFG facilitator” had described him as “a noncommittal LIFG member who received no training.”After relocating to Pakistan, [he] apparently stayed there until the summer of 2001, when he and a friend crossed the border into Afghanistan, traveling to Jalalabad and then to Kabul, where [he] found a job working as an accountant for Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi, the director of al-Wafa, a Saudi charity which provided humanitarian aid to Afghans, but which was regarded by the US authorities as a front for al-Qaeda.
In the years since Hamouda’s transfer to Libyan custody, everyone connected to al-Wafa, including Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi, has been released, but in any case, as I also explained at the time:[His] involvement with the organization centered on its humanitarian work … In the “evidence” presented for his Combatant Status Review Tribunal — under factors purporting to demonstrate that he “supported military operations against the United States or its coalition partners” — it was stated that, while working for al-Wafa, he traveled to Kunduz “to oversee the distribution of rice that was being guarded by four to five armed guards.” In Guantánamo, it seems, even the distribution of rice can be regarded as a component in a military operation.I also explained:Captured in Islamabad, after fleeing from Afghanistan following the US-led invasion, [he] was held for a month by the Pakistani authorities, and was then handed over to the Americans, who began mining him for the flimsy “evidence” of terrorist activities outlined above. Earlier this year , he was cleared for release, and, despite misgivings on the part of his lawyers, stated that he was prepared to return to Libya, even though what awaits him may not be any better than what he was suffered over the last five years. Perhaps, as one of Guantánamo’s truly lost men, he has decided that, if he is to spend the rest of his life in prison for no apparent reason, he would rather be in Libya, where his wife and his family might be able to see him, than in Guantánamo, where, like every other detainee, he was more isolated from his relatives than even the deadliest convicted mass murderer on the US mainland.In September 2008, Human Rights Watch stated in a report that, according to the US State Department, officials had visited Hamouda in December 2007, and that, although the Libyan security forces “were holding him on unknown charges and apparently without access to a lawyer … he did not complain of maltreatment [and] was scheduled to receive a family visit” at the end of the month. The Gaddafi Foundation subsequently claimed that he had indeed been “granted a family visit,” and added that the foundation was providing an apartment for his family in Tripoli.