WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Thursday transferred a detainee from its Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba to Belize and is preparing to transfer at least two more in the coming weeks. All three are Pakistani citizens.

Majid Khan left Guantanamo early Thursday and arrived in Belize several hours later. He is the first detainee to be resettled by the Biden administration and one of the few to be sent to a location in the Western Hemisphere.

The other two expected to be released soon are Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Mohammad Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani.

“I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it,” said Khan in a statement issued through his legal team. “I promise all of you, especially the people of Belize, that I will be a productive, law-abiding member of society.”

The only known legal US resident at Guantanamo, Khan was born in Saudi Arabia. He was granted asylum in the US in 1998, while attending high school near Baltimore but remained a Pakistani citizen.

He returned to Pakistan in 2002 and, according to a US Defence Department detainee assessment, joined Al Qaeda and became a direct subordinate to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Al Qaeda’s senior operational planner and the principal architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Khan was arrested in Karachi in March 2003 and taken to a CIA black site where he was subjected to sleep deprivation, an ice water bath, and forced rectal feeding and rehydration. The chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, called the treatment torture. In September 2006, then-President George W. Bush announced that Khan was one of 14 “high value detainees” being transferred from CIA detention facilities to Guantanamo Bay to face the military tribunal system.

In 2012, Khan pled guilty to terrorism-related charges and was sentenced to 10 years detention. That sentence ended March 1, 2022. Khan still has family in the US, but US federal law does not allow Guantanamo detainees to be resettled in the country.

Aliya Hussain, an advocacy program manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, who has worked on Khan’s case for more than a decade, said, “Today did not seem possible when we started. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the unwavering commitment of everyone who has represented Majid.”

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2023

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