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US transfers Guantanamo Bay detainee to Belize, 34 prisoners remain

February 2, 2023 at 8:00 pm

Protesters demanded the closure of the detention centre at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on its 16th anniversary on 11 December 2017 [Safvan Allahverdi/Anadolu Agency]

The US has transferred former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Majid Khan, to the small Central American nation of Belize, the Pentagon announced Thursday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Khan pleaded guilty in a military court in 2012 to terrorism offenses related to his role as an Al-Qaeda courier, and was sentenced to more than 10 years of confinement. He was detained by the US in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and imprisoned at the notorious military prison in Cuba.

In 2021, he told a US court about the torture he endured at the hands of the CIA, saying he was subjected to “days of painful abuse” at the Agency’s international black sites.

Khan’s case marked the first time a high-profile Guantanamo detainee testified in court about his experience, enduring the US intelligence community’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques, a program that has been a black stain on the CIA and widely condemned as torture.

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Khan is a Pakistani national, who was born in Saudi Arabia. His family moved to the US in the 1990s and was granted asylum.

He pleaded guilty in 2012 to a host of crimes, including murder and attempted murder. A military judge ruled in 2021 that a jury could grant the former Al-Qaeda operative a more lenient sentence due to the torture he sustained.

“Today, I feel like I am reborn. I have re-entered the world. I am a free man. I am beginning a new life in a new country and a new culture. It’s all new to me, and I have a lot to learn,” Khan said in a statement distributed by his attorneys.

“I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it. I deeply regret the things that I did many years ago, and I have taken responsibility and tried to make up for them. I continue to ask for forgiveness from God and those I have hurt. I am truly sorry,” he added.

Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, informed Congress of his intent to transfer Khan to Belize on 22 December, the Pentagon said in a statement.

“The United States appreciates the willingness of the Government of Belize and other partners to support ongoing US efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility,” it added.

In all, 34 prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, including 20 who are eligible for transfer, according to the Defence Department. An additional three are eligible for a hearing before a governmental board, while nine are in military court proceedings. The remaining two have previously been convicted in a military court.

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