Mentally Ailing Detainee, Suspected of Deliberate Position in 9/11, Set for Switch

WASHINGTON — The case of a mentally in poor health detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has lengthy confounded america authorities. Suspected of being Al Qaeda’s meant twentieth hijacker within the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, he was tortured by army interrogators early in his detention on the American naval base in Cuba.

A senior Pentagon official later decided that, due to how Mr. Qahtani was initially handled, he couldn’t be prosecuted. Safety officers additionally thought of him too harmful to launch, so he has remained detained for twenty years.

On Friday, the Pentagon mentioned {that a} parole-like board had recommended repatriating Mr. Qahtani to Saudi Arabia to a custodial rehabilitation and psychological well being care program for extremists. The Biden administration is anticipated to ship him there as early as March.

The transfer adopted a report final spring by a Navy physician who concluded that Mr. Qahtani, who’s in his 40s, needs to be transferred as a result of he couldn’t obtain the medical therapy he wanted at Guantánamo and was too impaired to pose a future menace — particularly if he was despatched to inpatient psychological care, in keeping with individuals briefed on that report.

In June, the Periodic Assessment Board, a six-agency panel that evaluations the circumstances of uncharged Guantánamo prisoners, unanimously adopted that advice, in keeping with officers. However the Biden administration, apparently whereas it negotiated a safety settlement with Saudi Arabia for Mr. Qahtani’s repatriation, solely made the choice public on Friday.

“The board acknowledges the detainee presents some stage of menace in mild of his previous actions and associations,” the panel mentioned, explaining why it believed that menace may very well be “adequately mitigated,” making his continued indefinite detention pointless.

Amongst them, it cited Mr. Qahtani’s “considerably compromised psychological well being situation.” It additionally cited his “accessible household assist” and Saudi Arabia’s potential to offer “complete psychological well being care,” in addition to its potential to observe him and limit his journey if he completes therapy.

Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer for Mr. Qahtani and a professor on the Metropolis College of New York Legislation Faculty, referred to as the choice to suggest his shopper’s switch “lengthy overdue.” He cited his shopper’s severe psychological sickness, together with repeated current suicide makes an attempt.

“Regardless of the severity of his sickness, Mohammed doesn’t pose a danger to anybody however himself,” Mr. Kassem mentioned. “He wants psychiatric therapy in Saudi Arabia, not continued incarceration in Cuba.”

Mr. Qahtani is considered one of 39 detainees left at the wartime prison, and is considered one of 19 who’ve been really useful for switch topic to safety preparations. By legislation, Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III should inform Congress 30 days earlier than any such switch that he’s glad with the settlement.

However most of these 19 detainees can’t be despatched residence as a result of they arrive from unstable international locations like Yemen and Somalia, which by legislation can’t obtain Guantánamo detainees. So the Biden administration should discover different international locations prepared to take them. As a result of Mr. Qahtani will be repatriated, he may very well be the primary to depart.

Mr. Qahtani’s notoriety is linked to his try and enter america on Aug. 4, 2001, when an immigration inspector on the Orlando airport turned him away. The authorities later found that Mohamed Atta — a ringleader of the assault carried out by 19 hijackers that killed almost 3,000 individuals the subsequent month — had come to fulfill him there.

The circumstances led the authorities to imagine that Al Qaeda had despatched Mr. Qahtani to function a member of the crew that hijacked United Airways Flight 93. Passengers on the flight fought again and induced the aircraft to crash right into a Pennsylvania discipline somewhat than its possible meant goal, the U.S. Capitol.

(Mr. Qahtani has by no means been tried or convicted of being a part of that conspiracy. Even when he had been, it’s not clear whether or not Mr. Qahtani, who sustained a traumatic mind damage as a youth and was identified with schizophrenia earlier than he tried to enter america, had any particular information of what the federal government suspects Mr. Atta was planning for him.)

By the point america invaded Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 assaults, Mr. Qahtani had drifted into jihadi circles and was captured alongside the Pakistani frontier in December 2001 with a bunch of international fighters. He and people believed to be bodyguards to Osama bin Laden had been despatched to Guantánamo in early 2002.

Later that yr, the U.S. army acknowledged that he is likely to be no strange detainee. With authorization from Protection Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, he was compelled to endure two months of steady, brutal interrogation by the U.S. army inside a wood hut at Camp X-Ray in late 2002 and early 2003.

Hour-by-hour logs leaked to Time journal confirmed army interrogators positioned Mr. Qahtani in solitary confinement, stripped him bare, forcibly shaved him, and subjected him to extended sleep deprivation, dehydration, publicity to chilly, and varied psychological and sexual humiliations like making him bark like a canine, dance with a person and put on girls’s underwear on his head. They extracted a confession, which he later recanted.

Mr. Qahtani’s therapy was so degrading and abusive that the Bush administration official overseeing army commissions, Susan J. Crawford, concluded in 2008 that he couldn’t be prosecuted. As a result of “we tortured” him, she told The Washington Post that year, she refused to authorize his capital prosecution with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the assaults, and 4 different detainees accused of aiding them.

Mr. Mohammed and the 4 different males — whose case at the military commissions system has been in pretrial hearings for almost a decade — had been additionally tortured in American custody. However that occurred within the abroad prisons of the C.I.A., with graphic descriptions rising years after Ms. Crawford’s choice about Mr. Qahtani. Their torture by the C.I.A. has been a significant problem in that case.

As early as 2009, then Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged the conundrum surrounding Mr. Qahtani. “We’re inheriting a really troublesome scenario,” he said days before assuming office. “Not all of it’s clear reduce.”

As vp, former administration officers recall, Mr. Biden was devoted to President Barack Obama’s dedication to ending detention operations at Guantánamo, together with personally asking foreign leaders to help resettle detainees who could not go home. Whereas Congress enacted a legislation that thwarted Mr. Obama’s plan to shut the jail by transferring some detainees to a special facility in america, the administration nonetheless managed to drastically winnow down the variety of prisoners there.

The only detainee to leave the prison underneath President Donald J. Trump was additionally transferred to detention in Saudi Arabia. A yr into Mr. Biden’s presidency, his administration has transferred just one more out. Mr. Biden has described closing the power as a coverage aim, however he has not pushed Congress to rescind the legislation that forestalls bringing any detainees to high-security prisons on home soil or appointed a particular envoy to barter switch offers, because the Obama administration had.

Mr. Qahtani’s approval for repatriation follows litigation by his protection legal professionals, Ramzi Kassem and Shayana Kadidal, who’ve argued that he deserves to be launched to Saudi Arabia on medical grounds underneath each the Geneva Conventions and a U.S. Military regulation.

Credit score…Division of Protection

His legal professionals enlisted a psychiatrist who treats U.S. army veterans for post-traumatic stress, Emily Keram, to judge Mr. Qahtani through the years, beginning in 2015. Dr. Keram additionally obtained his data from Saudi Arabia displaying that he had undergone an acute psychotic break there attributed to schizophrenia lengthy earlier than he arrived at Guantánamo.

The torture solely made him sicker, the psychiatrist wrote in a collection of experiences to the court docket, and Mr. Qahtani distrusts American army well being suppliers, most probably as a result of army medics had been used at his interrogations. He refused psychotropic medicine and in recent times repeatedly tried to kill himself, together with by hanging, slicing and swallowing damaged glass, court docket paperwork present.

In 2020, based mostly on Dr. Keram’s work, a federal judge ordered an independent examination by a three-doctor panel, two of them foreigners. The Trump Justice Division resisted that order, which might have been the primary international medical intervention in detainee operations.

As an alternative, Congress created a place of a Navy physician who can be assigned to the bottom however who would work independently. Mr. Qahtani’s legal professionals agreed to place off resolving the court docket case whereas that official scrutinized the army’s medical data and Dr. Keram’s findings. The federal government has a deadline on Monday to inform the court docket the Biden administration’s place on the choose’s order requiring an examination by a three-doctor panel.

In Could, the Navy physician, Corry J. Kucik, concurred with Dr. Keram’s findings, in keeping with individuals aware of a seven-page report he ready for the Periodic Assessment Board.

Dr. Kucik agreed that Mr. Qahtani was broken by his childhood mind damage and the schizophrenia he developed as an adolescent, and that his abusive interrogation and subsequent continued confinement had solely aggravated that.

Dr. Kucik, the individuals mentioned, additionally agreed that Mr. Qahtani couldn’t be adequately handled at Guantánamo, and that he was extraordinarily unlikely to pose any menace if despatched to a Saudi psychological hospital close to his household the place his psychological well being may very well be extra successfully addressed. Mentally Ailing Detainee, Suspected of Deliberate Position in 9/11, Set for Switch

Fry Electronics Team

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