US releases Guantanamo prisoner

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The Saudi national was previously found ineligible for trial due to the torture he allegedly suffered in detention

A Saudi Arabian man who was detained in Guantanamo Bay for nearly 20 years for allegedly attempting to take part in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been released and repatriated back to Saudi Arabia.

The US Department of Defense announced on Monday that 46-year-old Mohammad Mani Ahmad al-Qahtani had been released after deeming his imprisonment “no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States.”

After notifying Congress on Friday of the decision to repatriate al-Qahtani, he was sent back to Saudi Arabia to receive mental health care.

“The United States appreciates the willingness of Saudi Arabia and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility,” the DoD said in its statement.

Al-Qahtani had been detained in Guantanamo Bay since June 2002 after being accused of intending to take part in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a hijacker. One month before 9/11, Al-Qahtani had tried to enter the US from Dubai but was rejected entry amid suspicions that he was an illegal migrant.

Al-Qahtani was reportedly subjected to torture, including beatings, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, and being forced to stay in uncomfortable positions during his detainment at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Qahtani was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and was tortured so intensely that he was found ineligible for trial in the US.

According to the Department of Defense, there are 38 detainees left in Guantanamo Bay – 19 of which are eligible for transfer, while seven are eligible for review.

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Al-Qahtani’s lawyer, Shayana Kadidal, praised the release of his client, saying, “For 14 years I’ve sat across from Mohammed as he talks to nonexistent people in the room and makes eye contact with the walls – something that’s been a constant part of his life since his teens.”

“It’s an extraordinary relief that the next time the voices in his head tell him to swallow a mouthful of broken glass, he’ll be in a psychiatric facility, not a prison,” Kadidal said.

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