Guantanamo detainee released to Belize after 20 years in captivity | Human rights news

Majid Khan, who was tortured by the CIA before being transferred to a US military facility in Cuba, says he feels ‘reborn’.

Washington DC – A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who survived torture in CIA custody has been transferred to Belize nearly a year after serving time in US-run detention.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that Majid Khan had been freed, bringing the number of detainees at Guantanamo to 34, including 20 eligible for transfer.

Khan, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and taken to Guantanamo Bay three years later, said he was looking forward to a new chapter in the Central American nation of 400,000 people.

“Today I feel reborn. I have re-entered the world,” Khan said in a statement.

“I’m a bit in shock because I’ve waited so long to be free and I can hardly believe it’s finally happened.”

Khan, who went to high school in the US state of Maryland, returned to his native Pakistan to join al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001, attacks. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy to commit murder, espionage and “providing material support for terrorism”.

“He was sentenced in 2021 to more than 10 years in prison, including the years he spent cooperating with US personnel,” the Pentagon announced Thursday. “He subsequently served his sentence.”

The prison in Guantanamo was opened in 2002 to house detainees captured during the “war on terror”.

Located on a US military base in Cuba, the prison operates under a legal system run by military commissions that do not guarantee the same rights as traditional US courts. Prisoners granted release sometimes spend years at Guantanamo while Washington searches for countries to accept them after they are released.

On Thursday, the Pentagon expressed gratitude to Belize for supporting “ongoing U.S. efforts to responsibly reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

The prison once housed nearly 800 inmates, many of whom initially spent time at secret CIA locations known as black sites, where they were tortured under the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program approved by former President George W. Bush’s administration.

A 2014 US Senate report detailed some of the torture techniques used on prisoners, including Khan, at these facilities.

“I was a ghost, a dead man walking,” Khan said in his statement on Thursday. “The CIA wanted me to stay like this forever. In fact, while I was being tortured, I often wished for death to escape the terror and pain.”

Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who represented Khan, said the legal advocacy group was “delighted” by his release.

“Belize has done an outstanding job to prepare for his resettlement, and their success serves as a model for other countries to accept men who no one thinks should remain in Guantanamo, but who cannot return to their countries for humanitarian reasons.” , Dixon said in a statement.

Khan was released days before the first visit by United Nations experts to Guantanamo.

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism, will present her findings and recommendations after the trip, which is expected next week.

Ni Aolain will also interview survivors of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US as well as former Guantanamo detainees over the next three months, the UN human rights office said.

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