Mohamedou Slahi, author of a bestselling memoir recounting his imprisonment and torture by the United States government, has been sent home to his native Mauritania after more than 14 years in Guantánamo Bay.

Slahi became the prison’s best-known detainee last year after publishing “Guantánamo Diary,” in which he recounts how he was rendered by the CIA in 2001 to prisons in Jordan and Afghanistan and then taken to Guantánamo. He wrote of being beaten, subjected to sleep deprivation and freezing temperatures, and blasted with music and other abuses, but also described with incredible openness and generosity his relationships with his American guards and interrogators.

Slahi’s lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement attributed to him saying, “I feel grateful and indebted to the people who have stood by me. I have come to learn that goodness is transnational, transcultural, and trans-ethnic. I’m thrilled to reunite with my family.”


Mohamedou Slahi in a photo distributed by the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Photo: International Committee for the Red Cross

Slahi has never been charged with a crime by the United States. He admits to having joined and fought with the mujahideen in the early ’90s against the Soviet-backed Afghan government, and U.S. authorities claim he helped recruit and facilitate travel for al Qaeda fighters. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010, saying that he was not a member of al Qaeda when the U.S. picked him up, and that evidence against him was tainted by torture (the government appealed that ruling).

In July, an interagency review board approved Slahi’s release, pending negotiations with his home country of Mauritania. In a hearing before the board in June, Slahi, through his representatives, had asked to be sent to rejoin family members in either Mauritania or Germany. He said he planned to start a small business, make use of computer skills he learned while imprisoned, and continue to write books.

A former guard submitted a letter in support of Slahi’s release to the board, saying that he would be glad to welcome him into his home. Military representatives described him as “one of the most compliant detainees” and “an advocate for peace” who “has pursued a new direction in life.”

“Eleven years ago Mohamedou wrote his ‘Guantánamo Diary’ as a gesture of faith in the power of the truth to overcome injustice,” said the writer Larry Siems, who edited the book, in a statement. “Today that faith has been rewarded.”

Slahi’s release leaves 60 men at Guantánamo, 20 of whom have been approved for transfer out of the prison.

Elizabeth Beavers, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA, said in a statement that “Slahi’s accounts of his treatment provided a chilling insight into the reality suffered by those unlawfully held for more than a decade without charge.” Each of the remaining men, she said, “must be charged and tried through fair trial in federal court, or be released to a country that will protect their human rights.”


The Intercept

Update, October 18: This piece has been updated to include a chart showing the status of the detainees who remain at Guantánamo.

Top photo: Two pages from “Guantanamo Diary” that were redacted by the U.S. government.