US releases Guantanamo prisoner once tortured at CIA sites

US releases Guantanamo prisoner once tortured at CIA sites

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. military officials said Thursday they freed and sent back to Belize a former al Qaeda courier who had completed his sentence. Majid Khan’s transfer ended an incarceration that included torture at secret CIA sites and 16 years at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Khan, a Pakistani citizen who grew up outside Baltimore, was flown to the Central American country under a Biden administration deal with that government. Khan’s lawyers said he should have been released last February under a plea deal.

Khan, who is in his early 40s, said in a statement through his legal team that he deeply regretted his time working with al-Qaeda in his early 20s. This included working as a courier and participating in the planning of several plots that never materialized.

“I promise to all of you, especially the people of Belize, that I will be a productive, law-abiding member of society,” the statement read. “I won’t let you down.”

Before arriving at the military prison at the US base in Cuba in 2006, Khan spent about three years in so-called CIA black centers overseas. The CIA used the clandestine sites in what the United States called its “war on terror” after the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks against America on September 11, 2001.

Khan’s treatment was detailed in a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2014, which accused the CIA of abusing al-Qaeda prisoners far beyond its legal bounds and providing false accounts to the public. of useful interrogation in countries.

His treatment included being suspended from a ceiling beam for long periods of time, doused with ice water to deprive him of sleep for days, and subjected to beatings, water torture, forced enemas, sexual assault and starvation, Khan said. in a military courtroom. considered his conviction in a military-run war crimes trial.

Khan pleaded guilty before a US military commission in 2012. He was sentenced in 2021 to 26 years, although a preliminary agreement called for a Pentagon legal official to reduce that term to no more than 11 years because of his cooperation with the US authorities. Khan’s team said he should have been released last February as part of that deal.

One of his lawyers, Katya Jestin, noted that the United States had continued to hold Khan more than a year after he completed his sentence. “This is a historic victory for human rights and the rule of law, but one that took a long time to achieve,” she said in a statement.

The Department of Defense thanked Belize and others working to transfer Guantanamo detainees deemed not to be a threat to liberty outside the United States. The Pentagon also said the US remains committed to the eventual closure of Guantanamo.

At its peak in 2003, the prison held about 600 people the US considered suspected terrorists. Supporters of using the detention facility for such figures claim it prevented attacks. Guantanamo’s many critics say the system subverted human and constitutional rights and undermined the country’s influence and moral standing around the globe.

Thirty-four detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, including 20 eligible for transfer if stable third-party sites can be found to take them, the Pentagon said.

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