- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Defense Department has sent a Saudi prisoner at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to his home country to treat mental illness. The decision has angered families of 9/11 victims and some Republican lawmakers.

Mohammad Ahmad al-Qahtani allegedly had tried to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking plot, but he was not tried after a Pentagon official determined he had been tortured at the U.S. naval base in Cuba and could not be prosecuted.

He was transported to a treatment facility in Saudi Arabia after a review by military and intelligence officials found he could be safely released after 20 years in custody.

“On June 9, 2021, the Periodic Review Board process determined that … detention of Mohammad Mani Ahmad al-Qahtani was no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “The United States appreciates the willingness of Saudi Arabia and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the transfer last month.

The decision did not sit well with Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

“Al-Qahtani is a terrorist who made it his life goal to kill Americans. I believe he remains committed to jihad and the destruction of the United States,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement.“Now, because of the Biden Administration’s misguided policies, he has the opportunity to once again return to the battlefield.”

“The decision to transfer al-Qahtani is not simply a lapse in judgment, it is a massive error which poses a serious risk to our national security and the security of our allies,” the senator said.

The Daily Mail reported families of the 9/11 victims also were confounded.

“I think it’s very sad to be a child of someone who was killed on 9/11 not to have a day in court for my father and the 3,000 other people who were murdered,” said Angela Mistrulli, whose father, Joseph, died in the World Trade Center. “I find it more and more that they are taking away their ability to prosecute and get the truth.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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