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US sends suspected '20th hijacker' from Guantanamo home to Saudi Arabia

Guantanamo Closure Explainer
Posted at 6:53 PM, Mar 07, 2022

A Saudi prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who was suspected of trying to join the 9/11 hijackers has been sent back to his home country for treatment for mental illness.

The Department of Defense says Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani was flown back to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. base in Cuba after a review board concluded he could be safely released after 20 years in custody. The U.S. dropped plans to try him after a Bush administration legal official concluded he had been tortured at Guantanamo.

The Department of Defense said in a statement, “The United States appreciates the willingness of Saudi Arabia and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

As the Associated Press reported, around half of the men held at Guantanamo have been cleared for release, with no decision made on what to do with the rest of the prisoners, including those facing trial by military commission.

Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who represented al-Qahtani said, “After two decades without trial in U.S. custody, Mohammed will now receive the psychiatric care he has long needed in Saudi Arabia, with the support of his family.” Kassem said, “Keeping him at Guantanamo, where he was tortured, and then repeatedly attempted suicide, would have been a likely death sentence.”