US releases Afghan Guantánamo Bay detainee after 15 years of incarceration
© WikiMedia (Gino Reyes)
US releases Afghan Guantánamo Bay detainee after 15 years of incarceration

The US Department of Defense Friday announced the release of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national who had been held for 15 years without charge in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

Gul was incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay in 2007 on accusations of being a member of Al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an insurgent group that fought against the US in Afghanistan. The group signed a peace agreement with the former, US-backed, Afghan government in 2016.

In 2016, Reprieve, an international human rights organization, and Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, a law firm, filed a habeas corpus petition demanding Gul’s release. In October 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the US “no longer has a legal basis to justify the continued detention,” having found that Gul had been an HIA member but not that of Al-Qaeda. The court ordered his release. In April 2022, Gul’s lawyers moved to hold the US government in contempt for not complying with the court’s order.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2008 in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantánamo Bay detainees had a right to petition for a habeas corpus writ. Gul was the first such detainee to win a habeas case in 10 years.

Reprieve stated that Gul did not have access to a lawyer for the first nine years of his incarceration despite making numerous appeals for legal representation. It also stated that Gul had suffered severe physical and psychological torture during his detention, including being beaten, hung by his wrists, deprived of food and water, and prevented from praying. He was also subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold temperatures and solitary confinement.

Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesperson, also announced Gul’s release and stated that he was one of the last two Afghan detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Human rights organizations have reported multiple human rights violations at Guantánamo Bay over the years.

In February 2021, the US government expressed its intention to close the prisonwhere 36 detainees remainbefore President Joe Biden’s term is finished.