by Jordan Arizmendi
“My name is Majid Khan, and I am a real person. I am a human being. I am a Muslim man, and I first want to thank God for freeing me.”
With that, the 43-year-old Pakistani was transferred to Belize from the U.S. Military Prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, on February 2, 2023. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy and murder in the 2003 bombing of the Jakarta Marriiott Hotel, which killed 11 civilians. Military jurors decided to grant him clemency, setting up his release.
His departure left just 32 remaining detainees at the “Gitmo” prison. Khan was the first victim to detail a CIA torture program he endured at the prison, which was established by former Pres. George W. Bush (R) the year after attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., by the al-Qaida terrorist group. Khan, who went to high school in Maryland before moving back to Pakistan and joining al-Qaida, was captured by U.S. forces in 2003 and has spent almost half of his life in U.S. detention.
Bush’s successor, former Pres. Barack Obama (D), broke a campaign promise to close the prison. So far the same is true of his former second-in-command, current Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D). Between their terms, former Pres. Donald J. Trump (R) signed an executive order in January 2018 to keep it open.
The difficulty in closing the prison lies in finding somewhere to send detainees after lengthy stays in U.S. custody. Khan, for example, could not return to Pakistan because he had cooperated with U.S. authorities.
On February 24, 2023, the number of detainees dropped to 30, when the U.S. Department of Defense announced the repatriations of Abdul Rabbani, 55, and Mohammed Rabbani, 53, to Pakistan, after determining it was no longer necessary to hold them under law of war.
Of those remaining, 18 are eligible for transfer; nine are currently involved in the process leading to trial before military commissions; three are due to appear before a Periodic Review Board to determine whether they will continue to be held under law of war; and the remaining two were convicted by military commissions.
Source: NPR, U.S. Dep’t of Defense
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