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US accused of delaying deal to release Guantanamo detainees

WASHINGTON – A former Maryland man being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has spent months after his scheduled release despite cooperating with authorities on a plea deal, according to a federal lawsuit seeking his immediate release.

Majid Khan was due to be released on March 1 after serving a 10-year sentence and helping authorities prosecute war crimes cases against others being held at the US base in Cuba, including the alleged mastermind of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

His lawyers say in a habeas corpus petition filed in federal court in Washington on Tuesday that the government has taken no apparent steps toward his release. They say it will reduce the likelihood of other prisoners making similar deals, which would help the Biden administration reduce the number of men being held there and move closer to closing the facility.

“The failure to convict Majid Khan undermines those efforts to negotiate settlement agreements in the remaining cases,” said attorney Wells Dixon.

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Khan is one of the most prominent figures among the 37 men still being held at the US base in Cuba. His Testimony of the torture suffered for more than three years in secret CIA prisons was the first public account of a prisoner’s treatment and prompted seven of the eight military officers who served on his sentencing jury to support a clemency plea for him.

This letter is also believed to have contributed to this ongoing efforts to negotiate a settlement in the protracted pursuit of five Guantánamo detainees accused of aiding and planning the 9/11 attacksincluding the alleged mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad.

Khan, 42, is a Pakistani national who has lived much of his life in the United States. His family was granted asylum in the country in 1996, and he graduated from high school in suburban Baltimore. He admitted becoming a courier for al-Qaeda and in 2012 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and providing material support to terrorism in a deal that has given him time served since his capture.

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A senior Pentagon judicial official, known as the military commission convening agency, confirmed his sentence in March as having been carried out.

Khan cannot return to Pakistan because he would be in danger as a cooperating witness against al-Qaeda. It would be up to the State Department to negotiate an agreement with another country to take him in, along with his wife and a daughter born after his capture.

“They have what appears to be bureaucratic paralysis where nobody seems to be saying Majid Khan needs to be jailed but nobody is taking steps to convict him,” Dixon said.

The State Department and Pentagon referred questions about Khan to the National Security Council, which did not immediately comment.

The White House said the administration made a commitment to closing the detention center, a pledge by President Barack Obama shortly after he took office. That promise was thwarted by Congress.

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Since President Joe Biden took office, the US has released three prisoners. About 20 others were identified as eligible for release.

President Donald Trump, who opposed the closure of the detention center, released a single prisoner — a Saudi who, like Khan, scored a plea and became a cooperating witness. At the time, lawyers were closely monitoring the situation to see what would happen and whether the US would honor the agreement. According to James Connell, who is representing Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the defendants in the 9/11 case, this is happening now too.

“We are closely monitoring how the government is handling the Khan case,” Connell said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/08/us-accused-of-stalling-on-deal-to-free-guantanamo-prisoner/ US accused of delaying deal to release Guantanamo detainees

Sarah Y. Kim

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