A transcript from a status hearing in 2004 or 2005 portrayed him as a belligerent, unrepentant prisoner. “I did not come here to defend myself, but defend the Islamic nation,” he told the board in a brief monologue that railed against capitalism, homosexuality, U.S. support for Israel and the war in Iraq.
In the years that followed, he refused the efforts of civilian lawyers to seek his release through a habeas corpus petition in federal court, telling a civilian judge in 2009 that “the American U.S. legal system is just the lavatory that flushes the dirty output of Uncle Sam — you’re just trying to wipe out whatever he does, negative things.”
Until 2020, he refused to cooperate with the review boards that sought to determine whether a detainee was too dangerous for release. Then in letters from his prison cell to a federal court in Washington, D.C., including one dated Sept. 11, 2020, he asked for a pro bono, court-appointed lawyer to help him seek release.
In December 2021, a military officer, acting as his representative, told the board that Mr. al-Sharbi “was comfortable around those of different backgrounds and faith” and should be released to an Arabic- or English-speaking country.
Mr. al-Sharbi aspired to work but “recognized he may need some additional training as the engineering world has continued to evolve during his detention,” his representative said. Alternatively, he added, Mr. al-Sharbi could become a “teacher or tutor” because he had a minor in mathematics from Embry-Riddle.
Mr. al-Sharbi was expected to ultimately go to Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation center for Muslim extremists, which last received a Guantánamo detainee toward the end of the Obama administration. Two Saudi citizens were repatriated by the Trump and Biden administrations. But one was sent to complete a prison sentence, and the other was transferred to a mental health care facility as a torture survivor.
More than 100 Saudi citizens were released during the George W. Bush administration. The Saudi government sent commercial airliners to Guantánamo to pick them up, which permitted rehabilitation efforts to begin on the base airstrip as soon as U.S. guards unshackled the prisoners.