As Four Afghan Men Released from Guantánamo, Calls to Free All Who Remain


Following the Pentagon's announcement on Saturday that it has repatriated four men incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan, human rights advocates are urging the United States to release all who remain captive in the U.S. military prison "without delay."

Mohammad Zahir, 61, Khi Ali Gul, 51, Shawali Khan, 51, and Abdul Ghani, 42 were transferred to Afghan authorities on Friday, the Pentagon announced Saturday. All of them were cleared for release in 2009.

This is the first repatriation of men held in Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan since 2009, and it follows the release of six people to Uruguay earlier in December.

The move was reportedly a delayed response to the request of new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, who is strongly backed by the United States and recently signed the Bilateral Security Agreement, which locks in at least another decade of U.S. military entanglement in Afghanistan.

The four men are unlikely to face further incarceration in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official cited by the New York Times.

Friday's repatriation means that 132 men—eight of them from Afghanistan—remain incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay without charges or fair trials.

Advocates for the men who were released Friday welcomed the news but expressed despair at their long detentions.

"Ghani should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone for more than a decade," said Barry Wingard, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, who represents the man, described by Al Jazeera America as a farmer. "After many years of terrible treatment at the hands of his captors, Abdul returns to his homeland as innocent as the day he was taken from his family."

Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy has worked on the case of Shawali Khan—who grew up on a farm in southern Afghanistan and was detained at the prison for 11 years without charge. "Shawali was sent to Guantánamo on the flimsiest of allegations that were implausible on their face and never properly investigated, and held for 11 years without charge," said Azmy. "We hope that soon he will be reunited with his loved ones."

Azmy added that the Obama administration's claims to be winding down the war on Afghanistan underscore the need to release remaining detainees "without delay."

"Continuing to hold prisoners at Guantánamo under the guise of an endless, worldwide 'war on terror' would be both unlawful and, itself, terrifying," said Azmy. "Endless war is anti-democratic and fundamentally inconsistent with basic liberty."

This story was originally published on Common Dreams.

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