US urgently seeking country to take in Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan

Pakistani citizen last year publicly described his torture by US agents from 2003 to 2006

Majid Khan in 2018. AP
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The US is urgently looking for a country that will take in former Al Qaeda money courier Majid Khan, who was tortured by the CIA, The New York Times reported.

The Pakistani citizen, 42, in 2021 described his torture by US agents from 2003 to 2006 — the first such public account by someone detained after the September 11 attacks.

Diplomats have approached 11 countries to ask if they would be willing to take in the Guantanamo Bay detainee, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing on Tuesday.

Lawyers said finding a country to take on Mr Khan, as well as his wife and daughter who are in Pakistan, was a priority for the Biden administration.

“The government is actively — and urgently — working to facilitate petitioner’s transfer,” the lawyers wrote in a 37-page filing.

In 2012 Mr Khan admitted he was an Al Qaeda money courier and would-be suicide bomber.

He told a jury last year he was raped, beaten and waterboarded by CIA interrogators.

In 2021, seven senior US military officers called Mr Khan’s treatment at the prison “a stain on the moral fibre of America” in a handwritten letter first published by The New York Times.

'Socialising with prison chiefs during religious feasts'

His lawyers said he was in isolation in the same detention setting in which he served his sentence, which ended on March 1.

But US Army Col Matthew Jemmott, the warden of the Pentagon prison, said Mr Khan has socialised with FBI agents and top prison officials during “religious feasts, social meetings and meetings regarding detention-related issues”.

Mr Khan’s lawyers in July asked the judge to release him into the US, or at the US Navy base beyond the prison zone, which has 6,000 residents.

Mr Khan has family members in the US city of Baltimore, where he attended high school in the 1990s. But Guantanamo detainees are forbidden by US law from being released into the US.

Justice Department lawyers said finding a country to take in Mr Khan is in the government’s national security interests “to encourage co-operation by individuals accused of acts of terrorism”.

Mr Khan’s lawyers said he could not go back to Pakistan because he fears persecution there as a former US government informant who testified against other Guantanamo prisoners.

Mr Khan is one of two of the 36 prisoners at Guantanamo to have been convicted, while 10 others are in pretrial proceedings.

Prosecutors are in plea negotiations with the five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks. A disabled Iraqi prisoner recently offered a guilty plea in exchange for transfer to an unknown country for medical treatment.

Justice Department lawyers said Mr Khan’s detention was lawful because “hostilities with Al Qaeda remain ongoing”, citing a CIA drone strike last month that killed the terrorist group's leader, Ayman Al Zawahri, in Afghanistan.

Updated: August 10, 2022, 12:09 PM