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Waiting For Her Son's Freedom, A Mother Loses Hope

Guantanamo detainee Ravil Mingazov and his family in happier days.
Guantanamo detainee Ravil Mingazov and his family in happier days.
CHALLY, Russia -- Ravil Mingazov was supposed to be a free man by now. Instead, he remains at Guantanamo Bay, with the dubious distinction of being the last Russian citizen in U.S. custody at the notorious detention center.

In May 2010, a U.S. federal court ordered him released within six weeks, ruling that the government no longer had any reason to detain the 42-year-old Tatar. That decision has since been reversed in what some critics say was a politically motivated legal challenge.

More than nine years ago, Mingazov was classified as a terrorist-in-training for Al-Qaeda after U.S. military forces picked him up at a house in Pakistan they said belonged to suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah.

His protests that it was a guest house for refugees, and his denials of any ties to Zubaydah or Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden fell on deaf ears.

Zuhra Waliullina says she doesn't think she'll see her son again.
Zuhra Waliullina says she doesn't think she'll see her son again.
​Now his mother, 75-year-old Zuhra Waliullina, says she has lost hope of ever seeing her son again.

"I last spoke to him on December 22. He's doing well there. They get good food. They have TV and sports facilities. They're not drowning in tuberculosis like all the inmates here," she says.

"But I've lost my hope [of ever seeing him again]. I don't trust Obama. I don't have the strength to write any more letters asking for help. This is how I am now."

Once, Mingazov was a ballet dancer in a folk ensemble in the Russian Army. But he left the country after he re-embraced Islam, because he feared persecution.

His mother told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that in the time he has spent at Guantanamo Bay, his wife has remarried and the son they had together, Yusuf, has grown up without a father.

The boy now lives in Syria, where Mingazov's wife fled after Russian authorities began to pressure and imprison some of the other seven former Guantanamo inmates who returned to Russia after their release.

Their experiences have struck fear in Mingazov, whose mother told RFE/RL last year that he was afraid to come home.

One former Russian detainee, Rasul Kudayev, was arrested -- and according to his lawyer and family, beaten and tortured -- after a militant attack in Nalchik in October 2005.

Another, Ruslan Odizhev, joined a North Caucasus insurgent group and was killed in 2007.

Two fellow Tatars, Timur Ishmuradov and Ravil Gumarov, were convicted and sentenced in May 2006 to several years in prison for taking part in a January 2005 attack on an oil pipeline. They both denied the charges, saying they were fabricated by Russian security services.

Mingazov has reportedly applied to Germany for asylum, and two cities in Massachusetts have offered him residency after his release.

When that will happen is anyone's guess.

Gafiulla Gazizov of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service contributed reporting.
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