Afghan held in Guantanamo Bay released without trial after 15 years

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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The Taliban said Asadullah Haroon Gul was one of Guantanamo Bay’s last two Afghan detainees.

An Afghan detainee who has been held without trial in Guantanamo Bay for about 15 years has been released from US custody, the Taliban government in Afghanistan and an international human rights group said.

The release of Asadullah Haroon Gul was announced Friday by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban-appointed Deputy Minister of Culture and Information, who said Gul was one of the last two Afghan detainees held in Guantanamo Bay.

Gul, who will soon fly to Kabul, was detained by US forces in Jalalabad in 2007 and was held for 15 years without trial, said Suhail Shaheen, a senior Taliban official based in Qatar.

The United States opened the infamous Guantanamo Bay Prison under President George W. Bush in January 2002 after the 9/11 attacks and invasion of Afghanistan to imprison Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Dozens of suspects from multiple countries were sent there to detain and interrogate people suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

Gul was handed over to the Taliban government as a result of their talks with US authorities, Mujahid said.

Guantanamo Bay

“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 two remaining detainees, Asadullah Haroon, has been released from Guantanamo prison,” he said on Twitter.

It is with great pleasure to announce that one of our detainees, Assadullah Haroon, has been released from Guantanamo Prison and has been handed over to the Islamic Emirate. 1/4

— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) June 24, 2022

Mujahid did not share any further details about Gul’s whereabouts.

The UK-based rights group Reprieve said Gul was sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2007.

“His family feared his death for years, and for the first nine years of his imprisonment, he had no 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 petition on Gul’s behalf in 2016, “demanding his release”.

After years of litigation, a Washington court ruled in October 2021 that Gul was not part of al-Qaeda and ordered his release.

According to Reprieve’s statement, Gul “was subjected to severe physical and psychological torture during his detention, including beating, hanging from his wrists, food, and water, and prevented from praying. He is subject to sleep deprivation, extremely cold temperatures, and solitary confinement.”

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

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the Biden administration for allowing Gul’s transfer.

“The terrorist organization that now controls Afghanistan cannot and will not ensure that Gul, or any future detainees who are released, do not return to the battlefield and potentially kill Americans or other innocent civilians,” Rubio said, referring to the Taliban. Who seized power? In Afghanistan last August.

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