Guantanamo detainee transferred to Belize
The U.S. transferred a Guantanamo Bay detainee to the Central American nation of Belize on Thursday, months after he was first scheduled to be released.
Majid Khan, who pled guilty to terrorism, conspiracy and murder charges and admitted to working with al-Qaida as a courier, was set for release last spring but has languished in the infamous military prison in Cuba.
Khan is a citizen of Pakistan who lived in Maryland for most of his life after his family was granted asylum in 1996.
He pled guilty to the federal charges against him in 2012 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2021 with credit earned for his time already spent in detention.
Khan was scheduled for release on March 1, 2022, when he was certified as having completed his sentence.
The U.S. was accused of stalling on his release. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin finally notified Congress in December that Khan would be transferred out to the nation of Belize.
In a Thursday statement, Khan apologized for his actions and said he has “been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it.”
“Today, however, and for the immediate future, I really need to take some time to rest and recover from what I have been through, with help from my family who I have missed so much,” Khan said. “I realize that I may face some challenges adjusting to life after Guantanamo.”
Following on an effort from former President Obama, the Biden administration has committed to releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and closing down the prison site, which has been criticized for its use as a secret facility to torture and detain international prisoners.
Khan, who was taken into CIA custody in 2003, drew renewed attention to Guantanamo Bay when he testified about the torture he endured during his sentencing hearing.
In his statement, Khan said that after he was taken into custody, he “often wished for death to escape the terror and the pain,” but that he is glad he survived and now feels “reborn.”
Katya Jestin, an attorney who has represented Khan since 2009, said his release was a “historic victory for human rights and the rule of law, but one that took far too long to reach.”
“Guantanamo is a national shame and we hope that today is another step forward towards its ultimate closure,” Jestin said in a statement.
Before Khan, three Guantanamo Bay prisoners were released under Biden. According to the Pentagon, 34 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, including 20 eligible for transfer.
The Defense Department on Thursday thanked the nation of Belize for taking Khan and helping “to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility.”
—Updated at 12:43 p.m.
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