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‘20th Hijacker’ Is Returned to Saudi Arabia for Psychological Well being Care

By , in Politics , at March 7, 2022

Mohammed al-Qahtani had spent 20 years at Guantánamo Bay, the place he was tortured so badly that he was ineligible to be tried on the warfare crimes court docket.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The Biden administration on Monday repatriated to Saudi Arabia for psychological well being care a prisoner who had been tortured so badly by U.S. interrogators that he was dominated ineligible for trial because the suspected would-be 20th hijacker within the Sept. 11 assaults.

The prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, in his 40s, is the second to be transferred from the wartime jail beneath the administration.

A authorities panel recommended just lately that Mr. Qahtani, who had spent 20 years at Guantánamo Bay, be launched after a Navy physician suggested that he was too impaired to pose a future menace — significantly if he was despatched to inpatient psychological care. The physician final 12 months upheld an unbiased psychiatrist’s discovering that Mr. Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress dysfunction, and couldn’t obtain satisfactory care on the U.S. navy jail.

His long-serving lawyer, Shayana Kadidal of the Heart for Constitutional Rights, stated the switch was lengthy overdue.

“For 14 years I’ve sat throughout from Mohammed as he talks to nonexistent individuals within the room and makes eye contact with the partitions — one thing that’s been a continuing a part of his life since his teenagers,” Mr. Kadidal stated. “It’s a unprecedented reduction that the following time the voices in his head inform him to swallow a mouthful of damaged glass, he’ll be in a psychiatric facility, not a jail.”

through Ramzi Kassem

Mr. Qahtani’s case was controversial to the top. Three Republican senators asked the president final week in a letter to halt all transfers from Guantánamo, and particularly to maintain Mr. Qahtani on the jail. “We’re involved that he could attempt to resume terrorist exercise as soon as launched from U.S. custody,” wrote Senators James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim Risch of Idaho and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The U.S. navy airlifted Mr. Qahtani from distant Guantánamo on Sunday, quickly after the clock ran out on the 30 days’ discover Congress requires for a detainee switch. In an uncommon transfer, the Saudi authorities didn’t ship its personal plane to retrieve him, which delayed the announcement of his launch till the U.S. navy switch operation was full.

Mr. Qahtani’s notoriety is linked to his try and enter the US on Aug. 4, 2001, when an immigration inspector on the airport in Orlando, Fla., turned him away. U.S. authorities later found that he was to be met there by Mohamed Atta, a ringleader of the assaults that have been carried out by 19 hijackers and killed almost 3,000 individuals in 4 nearly simultaneous hijackings the following month.

Mr. Qahtani discovered his method to Afghanistan and was captured alongside the Pakistani border in late 2001. At Guantánamo, the U.S. navy remoted him whereas nude, disoriented and sleep-deprived in a wood hut at Camp X-Ray in late 2002 and early 2003, and questioned him brutally and relentlessly. A senior Bush administration official later concluded that the torture made him ineligible for prosecution. Later, his legal professionals disclosed that he had sustained a traumatic mind harm as a youth in Saudi Arabia after which was identified with schizophrenia there, circumstances that additionally may have made him ineligible for trial.

The switch follows the repatriation in July of a Moroccan man, Abdul Latif Nasser, whose launch was largely organized within the dwindling days of the Obama administration however was by no means acted upon by the Trump administration.

In a statement announcing Mr. Qahtani’s release from Guantánamo, the Pentagon thanked Saudi Arabia and different accomplice nations for supporting U.S. efforts to scale back the jail inhabitants with the aim of in the end closing the power.

“After 20 years of indefinite detention, Mr. Qahtani lastly has an opportunity to heal from the torture he suffered, obtain psychological well being care Guantánamo can’t present and hopefully someday reclaim his life,” stated Scott Roehm, the Washington director of the Heart of Victims Towards Torture. “His switch is a welcome incremental step, however the Biden administration must act a lot sooner and extra comprehensively to shut Guantánamo than it has to this point.”

The switch left 38 detainees at Guantánamo, half of them accepted for launch if the State Division can attain safety agreements with receiving nations that fulfill the secretary of protection. Of the remaining, 12 have been charged with warfare crimes, together with two males who’ve been convicted.

The opposite seven are held as “regulation of warfare” prisoners, primarily detained indefinitely as a result of the US considers them too harmful to launch. Their instances are reviewed periodically by a U.S. authorities panel, which may advocate a switch with sure safety measures, together with restrictions on journey or to detention in abroad prisons.

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