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One of the longest serving detainees in Guantánamo history cleared for release after 20 year imprisonment without charge or trial 

Khalid Qasim has been cleared for release from Guantánamo by a unanimous decision of six US federal agencies, namely the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, plus the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the office of the Director of National Intelligence. He has been imprisoned at Guantánamo without charge or trial since May 2002, making his detention one of the longest in the prison’s history. 

Khalid is a Yemeni national who was seized by a faction in Afghanistan’s civil war. He was severely tortured, made false confessions to stop the pain and was sold to the US for a bounty. He was taken to the US prison at Bagram and then the US base at Kandahar.  

He was tortured and mistreated at both sites, 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 for two months afterwards.

Khalid is a talented artist and has described painting as his “relief” during detention, saying “my paintings are always powered by optimism rather than despair”. However, he has said that “even this relief has been taken from me” when a new policy was introduced to ban the release of artwork from Guantánamo.  

Khalid’s lawyer at Reprieve US, Mark Maher, said:   

“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.  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.” 


Notes to editors:  

While detained at Guantánamo, Khalid wrote in a letter to Reprieve in February 2017 “my paintings are always powered by optimism rather than despair”. 

Khalid wrote earlier this year that painting has been his relief during his detention. His depictions of rough seas, ships, and sharks show his loneliness and yearning for freedom. His work conveys his disgust at the injustice that he and others at Guantánamo have had to face. However, Khalid wrote that “even this relief has been taken from me” because, after an exhibition of Guantánamo detainees’ artwork in New York in 2017, Trump’s administration, banned the release of art from within Guantánamo, which was widely described as censorship. 

Please find a media briefing attached with further information about Khalid Qasim, and more information here about Khalid’s artwork.