Guantánamo Diary author Mohamedou Ould Slahi freed after 14 years


Cii Radio| Sabera Sheik Essop| 18 October 2016| 16 Muharram 1438

The author of an internationally bestselling memoir about life in Guantánamo Bay has been released after enduring 14 years and severe torture at the US detention center.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose 2015 Guantánamo Diary memoir yielded a new wave of global outrage over Guantánamo Bay, is now free in his native Mauritania, his US attorney Nancy Hollander confirmed.

Hollander said she has yet to speak directly with Slahi and could not yet vouch for his health, but the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement it attributed to the detainee-turned-diarist.

“I feel grateful and indebted to the people who have stood by me. I have come to learn that goodness is transnational, transcultural, and trans-ethnic. I’m thrilled to reunite with my family,” the statement quoted Slahi saying.

The Pentagon subsequently announced Slahi’s transfer, which has brought the Guantánamo population down to 60 men.

In 14 years of captivity at Guantánamo, Slahi was never charged with any offense. A 14 July administrative review, Guantánamo’s version of a parole board hearing, determined that he did not pose a “continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”. It followed a 2010 ruling by a US federal judge, which the justice department appealed, that Slahi ought to go free for lack of untainted evidence of wrongdoing.

While the July decision from the Periodic Review Board ensured Slahi’s freedom, it was not then clear if the US would reach a deal with Mauritania to repatriate him or if it would find a new country willing to take Slahi in, as it has with dozens of ex-Guantánamo detainees.

Slahi fought alongside men who would join al-Qaida during the 1980s Afghanistan insurrection, but he renounced the group in the 1990s. He was the rare detainee who presented himself to local authorities for questioning after 9/11. That fateful decision saw him transferred to US custody, first in Afghanistan, and then at Guantánamo. At the facility, his 2002 treatment was among the most abusive that has come to light.

Guantánamo interrogators and detention personnel told Slahi that they had visions of Slahi dead. Unless Slahi cooperated with interrogators, they threatened to bring his mother to Guantánamo, which the detainee understood as a rape threat. They contorted his body into painful positions, deprived him of sleep and bombarded him with noise, and beat him after stuffing ice into his clothing during a harrowing night-time boat trip through the bay. The US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, personally approved Slahi’s interrogation regimen, which was overseen by a Chicago police detective.

Slahi wrote in his memoir that the torture made him willing to say whatever his tormentors desired, regardless of its truth. “As long as you are willing to buy, I am selling,” he wrote.

Afterwards, Slahi became a docile detainee, even striking up friendships with his guards. He wrote that he hoped to maintain those friendships in the event of his freedom. For much of the past decade, he had lived in a bungalow setting at Guantánamo, where he was permitted television and even gardening privileges.

Over the years, Slahi sharpened his English by handwriting an account of his experiences at Guantánamo, which his attorneys helped him publish – and declassify, as the US military considers even detainees’ personal memories to be classified information. PEN America called Slahi’s book “a document of historical importance”.

Source : The Guardian