‘Guantanamo Diary’ Author Cleared for Release

      WASHINGTON (CN) – After 14 years behind bars without charge or trial, “Guantanamo Diary” author Mohamedou Ould Slahi on Wednesday was cleared for release from the prison.
     “I was with Mohamedou when he received the news. It was incredible to watch him read the board’s decision. He is thrilled by it and excited by about the future,” Slahi’s attorney, Theresa Duncan said in an email.
     Slahi, 45, wrote the “Guantanamo Diary,” a 466-page handwritten memoir that chronicles his torture under the United States’ rendition program. He wrote the book from the Navy detention center in 2005, three years after U.S. forces brought him to the prison in 2002.
     Slahi’s torture has been well-documented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
     “At Guantánamo, Mr. Slahi was held in total isolation for months, kept in a freezing cold cell, shackled to the floor, deprived of food, made to drink salt water, forced to stand in a room with strobe lights and heavy metal music for hours at a time, threatened with harm to his family, forbidden from praying, beaten and subjected to the ‘frequent flyer’ program, during which he was awakened every few hours to deprive him of sleep,” according to ACLU records.
     The ACLU group submitted “a slew of evidence” in support of his release, it said in a statement, which included a letter of support from a U.S. military guard assigned to Slahi, who spent numerous hours face to face with him during his 10-month stint at the prison.
     The guard, whose name is redacted from the letter, said he would welcome Slahi into his home without reservations.
     “I have read Mr. Slahi’s account of his treatment in Guantanamo and his descriptions of the abuse he suffered during interrogations and in his first months in the prison. I would have expected a person who experienced such treatment to be angry and hostile,” the guard wrote.
     The guard said he did not find the worst of the worst in Slahi, but a surprisingly polite, friendly and respectful man.
     The Guantanamo parole board said it considered the native Mauritanian’s highly compliant behavior in determining that his continued detention is no longer necessary.
     “The Board also noted the detainee’s candid responses to the Board’s questions, to include recognition of his past activities, clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mindset,” the board’s summary of its final determination states.
     The multi-agency Guantanamo Periodic Review Board has cleared 31 of the 76 detainees who remain at the prison. Those cleared for release must meet security assurances approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
     The United States claimed that Slahi trained with and swore allegiance to al-Qaida while fighting with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, an argument it presented during his Periodic Review Board hearing on June 2. The U.S. also claimed that he helped recruit for jihad in Bosnia and Chechnya and facilitated travel to Chechnya from Afghanistan for two future 9/11 hijackers and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a 9/11 operational coordinator, in 1999.
     A federal judge determined in 2010 that no evidence existed to support the latter claims, and Duncan rebutted the former claims in June, noting that al-Qaida was a very different organization when Slahi was involved with it. The United States lent support to the group in a Cold War battle to oust Soviet troops who invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
     Duncan also said that a former chief prosecutor for the military commissions had determined that no evidence existed that Slahi had engaged in acts of hostility against the United States.
     The ACLU said his original military prosecutor quit because the evidence against him was too tainted by torture.
     The parole board said it also considered Slahi’s extensive support network and strong family connections in issuing its decision for transfer, and his realistic plans. His personal representative told the parole board in June that Slahi wants to run a small business. He also hopes to write more books.
     Duncan said she does not know the timeline for Slahi’s transfer.
     “I hope the government acts quickly,” she said in an email. “He deserves to be released as soon as possible and his family is so anxious to have him home.”

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