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71-Year-Old Gitmo Detainee Released

BEN FOX, Associated Press | August 29 2006

The oldest detainee at Guantanamo Bay — an Afghan man who is at least 71 and hobbled around the U.S. prison in Cuba using a walker — has been sent home, his lawyer said Monday.

Haji Nasrat Khan was among five men from Afghanistan transferred over the weekend, said attorney Peter Ryan, who received the news in an e-mail from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ryan was not told why Khan was transferred, and was trying to determine whether he would be held in custody in Afghanistan or allowed to return home.

The U.S. military did not disclose the names of the five men sent back to Afghanistan and declined to comment.

Khan was not charged with a crime and Ryan said the government never said why he was detained.

"We couldn't figure out why he was there," Ryan said. "He could barely walk and he could barely hear."

Khan told his lawyers he believes he's around 78, but doesn't know his exact age. He is at least 71, according to military records obtained by The Associated Press.

With the latest transfers, the military now holds about 445 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, including about 115 who the U.S. has determined are eligible for release or transfer.

To be eligible for release, the U.S. must conclude the detainee no longer poses a threat to the United Sates, has no further intelligence value and does not merit criminal prosecution, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

Ryan had been scheduled to visit Guantanamo this week to meet with Khan and Khan's adult son — who was captured with Khan and remains in custody — along with other Afghan prisoners represented by his law firm, Dechert LLP.

U.S. forces captured the elderly detainee's son, Hiztullah Nasrat Yar, in a compound with some 700 weapons, including small arms and rockets, according to military records.

Khan and his son told the military panel that the younger man was guarding the weapons for the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The father had said he was arrested while complaining about his son's capture several days later.

The military said both father and son had links to the Taliban — a notion Khan once ridiculed at a military hearing.

"How could I be an enemy combatant if I was not able to stand up?" he asked, according to transcripts released to the AP.

 

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