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Guantanamo Prisoner Who Wrote Best-Selling Diary Is Cleared For Release

Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of “Guantanamo Diary,” has been cleared for release by the United States military’s periodic review board.

Slahi is a Mauritanian, who has been detained in the notorious military prison since 2002. He was detained in Mauritania in November 2001 and subsequently faced rendition to Jordan. There he was held in prison before he was transferred to a prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan and then later transferred to Guantanamo.

“The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing threat to the security of the United States,” according to a “public determination” released [PDF] by the PRB. Transfer from Guantanamo was recommended.

The review board concluded Slahi was “highly compliant” as a prisoner. He also was “candid” with the board when asked to recognize his past activities and indicated his mindset had “changed.” The board applauded his “strong family connections” and “robust and realistic plan for the future.”

A personal representative for Slahi told the board Slahi denounces “any violent form of jihad.” He believes jihad “means to simply uphold your responsibilities and to take care of your family.”

“Mohamedou is uniquely talented and can speak multiple languages very well including English,” the personal representative said, and added Slahi “plans to pursue a small business and write books to support himself and other family members.”

Seventy-six prisoners remain at Guantanamo. Slahi is now one of 30 prisoners at Guantanamo cleared for release. He hopes to be released to Germany or Mauritania, where his brother has agreed to help support him financially as he attempts to resume his life.

The American Civil Liberties Union supported Slahi in his struggle for release from Guantanamo.

“We are thrilled that the PRB has cleared our client,” declared Nancy Hollander, one of the attorneys for Slahi. “We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family. This is long overdue.”

As the ACLU notes, “In the early 1990s, he fought with al-Qaeda when it was part of the Afghan anti-communist resistance supported by the U.S. The federal district court judge who reviewed all the evidence in Slahi’s habeas corpus case noted that the group then was very different from the one that later came into existence.”

Slahi endured abuse and torture, some of which he described in vivid detail in his book, “Guantanamo Diary” that became a best-seller in 2015.

“Slahi was one of two so-called “Special Projects” whose brutal treatment then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved,” according to the ACLU. “The abuse included beatings, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual molestation, frigid rooms, shackling in stress positions, and threats against both Slahi and his mother. In Slahi’s habeas challenge, a federal district court judge determined Slahi’s detention was unlawful and ordered him released in 2010.”

President Barack Obama’s administration appealed the decision.

Slahi has the notoriety of being the only still-imprisoned person at Guantanamo to have an account of his experience, which was written by him, published as a book. The ACLU fought a seven-year legal battle to force the U.S. government to declassify his 466-page handwritten diary.

He tried to prevent himself from breaking and refused to falsely confess to something he did not do. But the U.S. military eventually succeeded in torturing him into a false confession, where he said he was involved in a plot to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto.

Slahi did not care if it was false as long as the military officers that had been torturing him were pleased to hear he was involved in a terrorism plot, and the torture would stop.

Female interrogators used sexual intercourse as an interrogation technique. In his diary, he describes how they forced him to participate in a “sexual threesome.” They said if he cooperated they would stop harassing him. Otherwise, it would get worse every day because “having sex with somebody is not considered torture.”

Slahi shared how being raped by military interrogators made him feel and acknowledged the clear emasculating aspect of it. “What many [REDACTED] don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex, maybe more due to the traditional position of the man.”

Hollander told The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom, ““In many ways I believe they were using people like Mohamedou to experiment, what will happen when we do these things to people? Will it work or can they resist it?”

She highlighted the “fake letter” the military created to terrify him. It said his mother would be brought to Guantanamo if he did not “confess” to terrorism. “In many ways that was the worst for him, the fear that his mother was going to be arrested and captured and tortured, and he started telling them anything they wanted to hear, which he made up.”

Slahi endured some of the most horrific treatment and yet the military’s unclassified summary about him from February 2016 asserts he has “established a broad network of terrorist contacts while living in Germany, Canada, and Mauritania. Although most of his extremist contacts have since been detained or killed, [Slahi’s] relation to Abu Hafs al-Mauritini—a former al Qaida senior leader residing in Mauritania—could provide him with an avenue to reengage, should he decide to do so.”

This is obviously a purely fabricated threat otherwise a periodic review board backed by U.S. intelligence agencies would not have cleared Slahi for release.

It is unclear in the summary, but the fact that Slahi will probably tour the world and speak about his book, “Guantanamo Diary,” is noted within the context of his plans after detention. It is entirely possible Mauritania will limit his travel and place him under total surveillance so he cannot visit countries and give moving testimony about what he endured over the past 14 years.

Read excerpts from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s diary here.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."