The United States is sending a man suspected of being involved with the 9/11 hijackers back to Saudia Arabia after 20 years in custody.
Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani has been detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for allegedly trying to take part in the 2001 terrorist attacks on America.
With the consent of the Periodic Review Board, Al-Qahtani was flown back to Saudi Arabia for mental health treatment.
The PRB is comprised of military and intelligence officials. It was established in 2011 following Executive Order 13567. The board ruled in June of 2021 that al-Qahtani could be safely transferred out of Cuba.
According to Fox News, medical documents reviewed by al-Qahtani’s lawyers indicate the man has suffered from schizophrenia and other psychological conditions for most of his life.
The Bush administration found in 2009 that al-Qahtani had been tortured while in American custody and declined to prosecute him.
“We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case [for prosecution],” Susan Crawford, then a senior member of the Bush administration, said in an interview. “The techniques they used were all authorised, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent.”
Dick Cheney, vice president to President George W. Bush, has previously denied that any of the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay could be considered torture.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced the transfer on March 7, 2022. According to the D.O.D., Congress was notified of the “intent to repatriate al-Qahtani to Saudi Arabia” by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Feb. 4, 2022.
“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,” the Department said in its statement.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida denounced the transfer, which is the second release completed under President Joe Biden.
“Al-Qahtani is a terrorist who made it his life goal to kill Americans. I believe he remains committed to jihad and the destruction of the United States,” Rubio said in a statement on his website. “Now, because of the Biden Administration’s misguided policies, he has the opportunity to once again return to the battlefield. The decision to transfer al-Qahtani is not simply a lapse in judgment, it is a massive error which poses a serious risk to our national security and the security of our allies.”
Senators Jim Risch of Indiana and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma cosigned a letter with Rubio in March urging Biden to reconsider his decision to transfer al-Qahtani to Saudia Arabia.
According to the D.O.D., there are now 38 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Of the remaining group, 10 are undergoing the military commissions process while two have been convicted. Another 7 of the detainees are eligible for a PRB review. The remaining 19 are eligible for transfer.