War tribunal overseer ends sentence of Guantanamo detainee

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — An admitted al-Qaeda courier who described his torture by the CIA to a U.S. military jury has served his prison sentence, the Pentagon announced Friday. American diplomats must now find a country to place it.

Majid Khan was sentenced to 26 years in prison in October, from the time he first pleaded guilty to war crimes on February 28, 2012, for delivering $50,000 from Pakistan to an affiliate of Al- Qaeda. The money was used in the 2003 bombing of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, which killed a dozen people.

The military jury also declared his torture by the United States “a stain on America’s moral fiber” and urged the war tribunal overseer to offer him clemency.

On Friday, Jeffrey Wood, the convening authority for military commissions, reduced the sentence to 10 years, ending it on March 1.

In doing so, Khan became the 20th of 38 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for whom the United States must arrange safe transfer to another country. His attorney, J. Wells Dixon, urged the Biden administration to “quickly transfer him to a safe third country.”

Khan, 42, is a Pakistani citizen who went to high school in suburban Maryland. By law, no Guantanamo detainee can be taken to the United States. His lawyers say he cannot be sent back to Pakistan because when he first pleaded guilty he became a witness for the US government and his life could be in danger if sent there.

“There is no longer any reason to continue to detain Majid Khan at Guantanamo,” Dixon said. “The United States must send him to a safe third country where he can be reunited with his wife and daughter, whom he has never met.”

Wood, a colonel in the Arkansas National Guard, was appointed to the civilian post of war tribunal overseer during the Trump administration and has wide latitude to review and dismiss cases, as well as negotiate settlements. advocacy. In Khan’s case, a deal last year that was kept secret from the jury promised to reduce his time in custody.

As part of the deal, Khan was allowed to issue a public appeal for clemency to the jury in October. He offered a lengthy account of his journey from a high school graduate in suburban Maryland in the late 1990s to an al-Qaeda recruit in Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks, followed by his disappearance in the CIA black sites for three years.

He described CIA treatment, including being shackled naked with a hood over his head, making sleep impossible, nearly drowning in freezing water in a waterboarding improvisation and being crudely fed through tubes in his rectum and his nose.

Khan’s military attorney, Army Maj. Michael Lyness, told fellow US officers on the jury that the prisoner “was raped by the US government” and subjected to “heinous and despicable acts of torture”. .

After deciding their sentence, seven of Khan’s eight jurors wrote a letter to the convening authority asking for clemency for Khan because of what the United States had done to him.

“This abuse had no practical intelligence value or any other tangible benefit to US interests,” the letter said. “Instead, it is a stain on America’s moral fiber; Mr. Khan’s treatment at the hands of American personnel should be a source of shame for the American government.”

Khan was the first former Black Site prisoner to describe his experiences in open court.

Although he was captured in 2003 in Pakistan, he was not allowed to see his lawyers, Dixon and Gitanjali Gutierrez, until 2007, a year after he was taken to Guantanamo Bay.

“Thinking back, Majid was a scared, damaged kid when I first met him 15 years ago,” Dixon said. “He has come a long way and we are very proud of him.”

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