Gitmo Detainee Mentioned in Pre-9/11 Memo Returned to Saudi Arabia

Ghassan al-Sharbi was held for more than 20 years without trial
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2023 8:12 AM CST
Gitmo Detainee Mentioned in Pre-9/11 Memo Returned to Saudi Arabia
In this April 17, 2019, photo, the control tower is seen through the razor wire inside the Camp VI detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The inmate population at Guantanamo Bay now stands at 31—down from 35 a few weeks ago—with the repatriation of a 48-year-old Saudi prisoner. Ghassan al-Sharbi was held at the base in Cuba for more than 20 years without trial. Al-Sharbi, who allegedly traveled to Afghanistan in August 2001 for training in bomb-making at an al-Qaeda-run camp, was charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism in 2009 but the charges were dropped in 2013, the Washington Post reports. He was captured in Pakistan in March 2002.

Al-Sharbi studied at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida from 1999 to 2000, per CNN. The AP reports that he was mentioned in a memo from a Phoenix FBI agent two months before the 9/11 attacks that warned Osama bin Laden appeared to be sending students for flying lessons to the US for the purpose of attacking civil aviation. In a statement, the Pentagon said the Periodic Review Board determined in February 2022 that detaining al-Sharbi "was no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States."

Al-Sharbi didn't cooperate with review boards or civilian lawyers trying to seek his release until 2020, the New York Times reports. In 2009, he told a civilian judge that the US legal system "is just the lavatory that flushes the dirty output of Uncle Sam—you’re just trying to wipe out whatever he does, negative things." The Times reports that al-Sharbi will probably be sent to Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation for extremists. Two Pakistani brothers held at Guantanamo for almost 20 years were returned to their homeland last month. Earlier in February, another detainee was resettled in Belize. The Pentagon says 17 of the 31 remaining detainees are eligible for transfer. (More Guantanamo Bay stories.)

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