He was a prisoner in the controversial US prison camp Guantanamo for almost 17 years: Now Majid Khan can live as a free man in Belize. The country had agreed to accept him. Others have to keep waiting.
Pakistani Majid Khan has been in the US prison camp in Guantanamo since 2006. He had served his official sentence last March, but only now is he free: the United States transferred the now 42-year-old to Belize after almost 17 years in prison, according to the Pentagon and the White House.
“The United States welcomes the willingness of the Belize government and stakeholders to support ongoing U.S. efforts to reduce inmates and permanently close Guantanamo Bay,” the Pentagon said.
Khan had pleaded guilty in a lengthy trial before a military commission to having worked as a driver and money messenger for al Qaeda, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. At his trial, the Pakistani, who grew up in the United States, was the first accused to report in detail about torture by the CIA.
First release under Biden
This happened before he was imprisoned in Guantanamo. Between his arrest in Pakistan in 2003 and his transfer to the detention center, Khan was held in a secret interrogation center by the CIA. He was beaten and sexually assaulted, he wrote in a 39-page statement. In addition, the torture technique of waterboarding was used on him.
The jury had called his treatment an eyesore to the United States and asked the judge for clemency. Through his lawyers, Khan said he regrets his past actions and will do whatever it takes to be a productive and law-abiding community in his new home of Belize, Central America.
Khan is the first Guantanamo detainee whose release was ordered and carried out during the administration of US President Joe Biden. Biden had promised to close the prison camp before his 2020 election. There are currently 34 prisoners there, most of them without trial. 20 of them should actually go, but no country has yet been found that accepts them.
Guantanamo controversial from the start
The prison camp was established in 2002 as part of US President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” campaign at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba. Since then, about 800 prisoners have been housed there.
Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, had reduced the number of prisoners, but the Republican opposition in Congress at the time prevented the prison from being closed. The conditions under which suspects were detained at Guantanamo and the treatment of prisoners were criticized from the start. Among other things, international law and human rights would be violated, said the organization Amnesty International, for example.
With information from Julia Kastein, ARD Studio Washington
After 17 years: US releases Guantanamo detainee
Julia Kastein, ARD Washington, 2/2/2023 6:30 p.m