Afghan national freed from Guantanamo Bay after 15 years

ISLAMABAD (AP) — An Afghan prisoner who held in U.S. custody for nearly 15 years has finally been released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Afghanistan’s Taliban government and an international human rights group said on Friday.

Asadullah Haroon Gul’s release was announced by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy culture and information minister, who wrote on Twitter that Gul was one of the last two Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S. opened the detention center under President George W. Bush in January 2002 after the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan. It was intended to hold and interrogate prisoners suspected of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban at the time. Scores of suspects from multiple countries were later sent there.

The detention center became notorious after reports emerged detainees were humiliated and tortured there.

Mujahid said Gul was handed over to the Taliban’s government as a result of their talks with the U.S. authorities. “As a result of the efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and its direct and positive interaction with the United States, one of the remaining two detainees, Asadullah Haroon, was released from Guantanamo prison,” he said on Twitter.

In some pictures which were shared by Mujahid, Gul was seen smiling and being greeted by Suhail Shaheen, a senior Taliban official who is based in Doha, Qatar.

Mujahid shared no further details about the whereabouts of Gul.

Shaheen told The Associated Press that Gul was handed over to their representatives in Doha “following direct engagement with the Islamic Emirate”. He said Gul is to fly to Kabul soon. He said Gul was detained by the American forces in Jalalabad in 2007 and was later held for 15 years without any trial.

Also Friday, the UK-based rights group Reprieve said Gul was released from the Guantánamo Bay detention center without charge. In a statement, it also said Gul was sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2007. “His family feared him dead for many years and for the first nine years of his captivity, he did not have access to a lawyer, despite multiple attempts to obtain legal representation,” the statement said.

“Reprieve and the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss filed a writ for a petition of habeas corpus on his behalf in 2016, in which they demanded his release,” it added. After years of litigation, in October 2021, they prevailed when the “the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Asadullah’s detention was not legal, because he had only been a part of Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), a group that has been formally at peace since 2016, and he was not a part of Al Qaeda.” The judge thus ordered his release, it said.

According to the statement, Gul “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 has been subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme cold temperatures and solitary confinement.”

Commenting on Gul’s release, his lawyer at Reprieve, Mark Maher, said that Gul “missed his daughter’s entire childhood and he will never get back what has been taken from him, but he is now at least able to rebuild his life with his family, who have waited so long to see him.”

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