9/11 suspect deported to Saudi Arabia for mental health care

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The Biden administration on Monday repatriated to Saudi Arabia for mental health care a prisoner who had been so ...


GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The Biden administration on Monday repatriated to Saudi Arabia for mental health care a prisoner who had been so tortured by American interrogators that he was deemed ineligible to stand trial as the alleged 20th pirate in the in the September 11 attacks.

The prisoner, Mohammad al-Qahtaniin his forties, is the second to be transferred from the prison of war under the administration.

A government panel advised recently that Mr Qahtani, who had spent 20 years at Guantánamo Bay, was released after a Navy doctor informed him that he was too weak to pose a future threat – particularly if sent to hospital for psychiatric care. Last year, the doctor confirmed an independent psychiatrist’s conclusion that Mr Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder and could not receive adequate care in the US military prison.

His longtime lawyer, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the transfer was long overdue.

“For 14 years I sat across from Mohammed as he talked to non-existent people in the room and made eye contact with the walls – something that has been a constant part of his life since he was a teenager,” Ms. Kadidal. “It’s a tremendous relief that the next time voices in his head tell him to take a bite of broken glass, he’ll be in a mental institution, not a prison.”

Credit…by Ramzi Kassem

Mr. Qahtani’s case was controversial to the end. Three Republican senators asked the president last week in a letter calling for an end to all transfers from Guantanamo, including keeping Mr. Qahtani in prison. “We are concerned that he may attempt to resume his terrorist activities once released from custody in the United States,” wrote Senators James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim Risch of Idaho and Marco Rubio of Florida. .

The US military airlifted Mr. Qahtani from the remote city of Guantánamo on Sunday, shortly after the 30-day notice period required by Congress to transfer a detainee expired. In an unusual move, the Saudi government did not send its own plane to retrieve him, delaying the announcement of his release until the US military transfer operation was completed.

Mr. Qahtani’s notoriety is linked to his attempt to enter the United States on August 4, 2001, when an immigration inspector at the airport in Orlando, Florida turned him away. US authorities later discovered he was to be met there by Mohamed Atta, a ringleader of the attacks which were carried out by 19 hijackers and killed nearly 3,000 people in four near-simultaneous hijackings the following month. .

Mr. Qahtani found his way to Afghanistan and was captured along the Pakistani border in late 2001. In Guantánamo, the US military isolated him naked, disoriented and deprived of sleep in a wooden hut at Camp X-Ray in late 2002 and early 2003, and interrogated him brutally and relentlessly. A senior Bush administration official later concluded that the torture made him ineligible for prosecution. Later, his lawyers revealed that he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a youth in Saudi Arabia and later was diagnosed with schizophrenia there, circumstances that could also have made him ineligible for trial.

Transfer follows repatriation in July of a Moroccan manAbdul Latif Nasser, whose release was mostly arranged during the declining days of the Obama administration, but was never followed up by the Trump administration.

In one statement announcing the release of Mr. Qahtani from Guantánamo, the Pentagon thanked Saudi Arabia and other partner nations for supporting US efforts to reduce the prison population with the goal of eventually closing the facility.

“After two decades of indefinite detention, Mr. Qahtani finally has a chance to heal from the torture he has suffered, to receive mental health care that Guantánamo cannot provide, and hopefully one day to recover. his life,” said Scott Roehm, Washington director of the Victims Center Against Torture. “His transfer is a welcome additional step, but the Biden administration needs to move much faster and more comprehensively to shut down Guantánamo than it has done thus far.”

The transfer left 38 detainees at Guantánamo, half of whom have been approved for release if the State Department can reach security agreements with host countries that satisfy the Secretary of Defense. Of the others, 12 were charged with war crimes, including two men who were convicted.

The other seven are being held as “law of war” prisoners, essentially held indefinitely because the United States considers them too dangerous to release. Their cases are periodically reviewed by a US government panel, which may recommend transfer with certain security measures, including travel restrictions or detention in foreign prisons.

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Newsrust - US Top News: 9/11 suspect deported to Saudi Arabia for mental health care
9/11 suspect deported to Saudi Arabia for mental health care
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