Guantanamo detainee Khalid Ahmed Qasim has been cleared for release from the US detention facility in Cuba after being held for 20 years without a trial, according to documents from the Department of Defense.
Qasim, a Yemeni national, was taken into custody in December 2001 and transferred to the Guantanamo prison in May 2002, according to Reprieve, a human rights organization that represents Qasim.
The periodic review board, a governing body made up of representatives from six federal agencies that decides whether detainees at the Guantanamo prison still need to be held, determined it is “no longer necessary” to hold Qasim in order to “protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States,” according to Department of Defense documents.
“We’re thrilled that after two decades imprisoned without charge or trial, Khalid has finally been cleared for release and can start to focus on his life after release,” Mark Maher, Qasim’s attorney, said in the press release.
After detainees are cleared for release, the US government must make arrangements with another country before they are transferred out of the prison. Qasim will remain at Guantanamo until the US government makes an arrangement to transfer him.
The Periodic Review Board recommended he be transferred to a country with a “strong reintegration and rehabilitation program and appropriate security assurances as agreed to by the relevant US” government departments, the Department of Defense documents state.
According to a press release from Reprieve, Qasim was “severely tortured,” during his time in US custody, including “being forced to sleep standing up causing extreme sleep deprivation, subjected to freezing temperatures and being kept in a fenced area with his hands and feet shackled, leaving him unable to walk.”
Qasim is one of 20 detainees who have been cleared for release but remain at the prison. Four detainees have not been cleared for release and are being held in law-of-war detention, and 10 detainee still have ongoing cases in the US military commissions system. A total of 34 detainees remain at the prison.
During his time at Guantanamo, Qasim has started painting and has discovered “a talent for art,” according to Reprieve. He has completed several paintings during his time in prison, Maher said.
“Khalid was a young man when he was detained and has developed into a talented artist and writer. He has a lot to offer the world, and we look forward to the day when he is finally free,” Maher said in the release.