NEW YORK — A panel of national security, intelligence, and other officials has cleared Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi for release after determining that he poses no significant threat to the United States.
Slahi, the author of the best-selling memoir “Guantánamo Diary,” appeared before the Periodic Review Board on June 2. The government of his native Mauritania has said that it would welcome him home.
“We are thrilled that the PRB has cleared our client,” said Nancy Hollander, one of Slahi’s attorneys. “We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family. This is long overdue.”
Slahi has been held at Guantánamo without charge for nearly 14 years. With today’s decision, there are currently 76 prisoners remaining, 30 of whom have been cleared for release.
“We’re delighted for Mohamedou and his family, but the new chapter in his life won’t start until the Pentagon actually transfers him, and it should begin that process immediately,” said Hina Shamsi, one of Slahi’s attorneys and director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “There are still dozens of other men trapped in the misery that is indefinite detention at Guantánamo. Time is running out for President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo and prevent its injustice from tarnishing his legacy.”
Among the evidence the PRB reviewed was a letter of support submitted by a former U.S. military guard at Guantánamo who was assigned to Slahi for 10 months.
A campaign to free Slahi spearheaded by the ACLU has resulted in support both in the U.S. and abroad. The ACLU, Change.org, and MoveOn.org have collected more than 100,000 signatures calling for his release. The petitions have gathered high-profile supporters including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Roger Waters. In the U.K., several members of Parliament signed a letter urging the British government to call on the U.S. to release Slahi.
Slahi was born in Mauritania in 1970 and won a scholarship to attend college in Germany. In the early 1990s, Slahi fought with al-Qaeda when it was part of the Afghan anti-communist resistance supported by the U.S. The federal judge who reviewed all the evidence in his case noted that the group then was very different from the one that later came into existence. Slahi worked in Germany for several years as an engineer and returned to Mauritania in 2000. The following year, at the behest of the U.S., he was detained by Mauritanian authorities and rendered to a prison in Jordan. Later he was rendered again, first to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan and finally, in August 2002, to the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, where he was subjected to severe torture.
Slahi was one of two so-called “Special Projects” whose brutal treatment then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved. The abuse included beatings, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual molestation, frigid rooms, shackling in stress positions, and threats against both Slahi and his mother. In Slahi’s habeas challenge, a federal district court judge determined Slahi’s detention was unlawful and ordered him released in 2010. The U.S. government successfully appealed that decision, and the habeas case is still pending.
Slahi’s book, the first and only memoir by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo detainee, was published in January 2015 — with numerous redactions — from a 466-page handwritten manuscript. It spent several weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and has since been translated into multiple languages for publication in more than 25 countries.
Excerpts from Slahi’s book, along with video and audio content, are here: http://www.guantanamodiary.com