Ghassan Al Sharbi, 48, has never been charged with a crime and is returning to Saudi Arabia after 21 years in Guantanamo.
The United States has released a Saudi Arabian engineer who was imprisoned for more than 20 years in the Guantanamo Bay military prison, despite never being charged with suspected crimes following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
The US Defense Department said on Wednesday that Ghassan Al Sharbi, 48, was being returned to Saudi Arabia after a February 2022 review board determined that his detention was “no longer necessary to provide protection against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States. States”.
Al Sharbi was transferred to Saudi Arabia “subject to the implementation of a comprehensive set of security measures, including monitoring, travel restrictions and continued exchange of information,” the defense ministry said. said in a statement.
The Pentagon’s Periodic Review Board ruled in 2022 that Al Sharbi had no leadership or facilitating position in al-Qaeda and was obedient in detention. It also said he had unspecified “physical and mental health issues”.
The US said Al Sharbi fled to Pakistan after the September 11 attacks and received training in bomb making. He was arrested there the following year, allegedly tortured in custody, and sent to Guantanamo detention camp.
The US military had considered charges against Al Sharbi and several others, but dropped them in 2008. Although he was never charged with a crime, he was also not approved for release and the US continued to detain Al Sharbi as an enemy combatant.
Al Sharbi was initially targeted because he attended an aviation college in Arizona and had attended flight school with two of the al-Qaeda hijackers involved in the 2001 attacks.
He is at least the fourth Guantanamo detainee to be released this year and sent to another country.
The US Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, held about 600 prisoners at its peak in 2003. With Al Sharbi’s transfer, there are now 31 prisoners, including 17 people who are eligible for transfer if a stable country can be found to accept them. said defense.
Another three Guantanamo detainees are eligible for review, while nine are charged under military commissions and two have been convicted on such commissions.
Two Pakistani brothers – Abdul, 55, and Mohammed Rabbani, 53 – were released last month and returned home after 20 decades of detention at Guantanamo Bay.
Pakistan Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, chairman of a human rights commission in the country’s upper house, said the men were innocent but had been imprisoned by the US for 21 years.
“There was no trial, no legal proceedings, no charges against them. Congratulations on their release. Thank you Senate of Pakistan,” he wrote on Twitter upon their release.
The brothers were transferred to US custody after Pakistani officials arrested them in Karachi in 2002. The US accused the pair of helping al-Qaeda members with housing and other lower level logistical support.
Human rights groups have long called for the closure of the Guantánamo detention camp.