Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who documented his torture and imprisonment in the 2015 Guantánamo Diary, on Monday was finally returned home to his native Mauritania.
Upon his release, Slahi said, “I feel grateful and indebted to the people who have stood by me. I have come to learn that goodness is transnational, transcultural, and trans-ethnic. I’m thrilled to reunite with my family.”
One of Guantánamo‘s longest-held detainees, Slahi’s transfer comes 14 years after he was first brought to the offshore U.S. military prison, where he was held without charge or trial. In his critically-acclaimed memoir, the 44-year-old electrical engineer recounted his “endless world tour” of CIA black sites in Jordan, Afghanistan, and eventually Cuba, where he was abused and tortured.
Slahi’s “odyssey…began in 2001 when, at the behest of the U.S. government, Mauritanian authorities detained Slahi after he voluntarily went in for questioning,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted on Monday.
In a column, Hina Shamsi, one of Slahi’s attorneys and director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, detailed some of his ordeal:
Mohamedou was one of two so-called “Special Projects” whose cruel treatment Rumsfeld personally approved. The abuse he suffered included beatings, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, frigid rooms, shackling in stress positions, and threats against both Mohamedou and his mother, to whom he was very close. Mohamedou’s mother died in 2012, without ever seeing her son again.
In 2010, a federal district court judge determined Mohamedou’s detention was unlawful and ordered him released. The U.S. government successfully appealed that decision, and the habeas case is still pending.
Looking forward, Shamsi said, “All of us on Mohamedou’s team are focused on ensuring he has a cushion of love, support, counseling, and space to adjust after 14 long years in which he was denied his human rights. We already know how resilient Mohamedou is.” She further noted he now plans to “write and work, establish a charity, and care for his family.”
The military’s Periodic Review Board cleared Slahi for release in July of this year. Among the evidence submitted in his favor was a letter of support by a former U.S. military guard who was assigned to Slahi for 10 months at at Guantánamo.
“We are overjoyed for Mohamedou and his family, and his release brings the U.S. one man closer to ending the travesty that is Guantánamo,” Shamsi added in a press statement. “Dozens of other men still remain trapped in Guantánamo. With time running out, President Obama must double down and not just close the prison, but end the unlawful practice of indefinite detention that it represents.”
In fact, 60 prisoners remain in Guantánamo, 19 of whom have been cleared for release.