The US Department of Defense (DoD) Thursday confirmed the release from Guantanamo Bay of Majid Khan, a former money courier for al-Qaeda. The release follows a transfer agreement between the US and Belize. The deal, which will see the Central American country of Belize house Khan within its borders, is the first of its kind since the Obama administration. The Center for Constitutional Rights, the organization representing Khan, praised the release as “a turning point for the administration” and called again for the US to honor its promise to close Guantanamo Bay.
Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen who grew up outside Baltimore, came to the US as a teenager. Khan described himself to a military court as a “normal American teenager,” and recalled his early desire to integrate into American culture. However, after the unexpected death of his mother, Khan began to spend more time with Islamic fundamentalists. In 2002, Khan returned to Pakistan to find a wife. While in Pakistan, Khan grew close to his cousin, whom Khan described as a “‘big shot’ in Pakistan” due to his involvement with al-Qaeda.
On December 4, 2002, Khan delivered $50,000 to an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group in Thailand. The group would use the cash to help fund a 2003 suicide bombing in Indonesia that left 11 dead. In early 2003, the CIA took custody of Khan, and retained him until 2006. Both Khan’s individual testimony and a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report allege that the CIA mentally and physically tortured Khan, including multiple instances of sexual assault. In 2006, then President George W. Bush ordered Khan to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained for the next 16 years. In 2012, Khan pled guilty to his participation with al-Qaeda, and began to fully cooperate with the US government.
In a letter published upon his release from Guantanamo, Khan accepted full responsibility for his actions and pledged to the people of Belize “to be a productive, law-abiding member of society.” Following Khan’s release, 34 men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. Of those 34, 20 are currently cleared for release.