Ayotte condemns release of Gitmo detainee tied to 9/11
By Evan Lips | October 18, 2016, 10:59 EDT
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, currently facing a formidable challenge for re-election from New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, on Monday continued her pattern of criticizing President Barack Obama’s steady release of Guantanamo Bay detainees — this time ripping his administration for the release of a man alleged to have helped facilitate travel plans for several 9/11 hijackers.
35-year-old Mauritania national Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who received extensive media coverage for publishing a bestselling memoir of his treatment while at the detention center, left Guantanamo Bay on Monday following his capture nearly 15 years ago.
Slahi was never charged with a crime, but New Hampshire’s Republican senator pointed in her statement to an unclassified U.S. Department of Defense report which indicated that Slahi first pledged allegiance to al-Qaida during the 1990s. The report notes that Slahi “facilitated the travel of future 9/11 operational coordinator Ramzi bin al-Shibh and two others to Chechnya, a claim Slahi denied.
During a March 2007 detainee administrative board review, Slahi denied having “actively recruited for Jihad from 1992-1997” while living and preaching at various mosques in Germany, telling interrogators instead that “his passion had faded because he had a wife and family, college, and his life.”
Slahi admitted to swearing loyalty to Osama bin Laden in 1990 but stressed in his interviews with interrogators, with his that he did not have any knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks prior to the event. Slahi also acknowledged that “to this day his wish is to die as a martyr” but added that he “does not want to kill any innocent people, including Americans.”
In a statement issued in August following the release of the DoD report featuring intelligence on detainees, Sen. Ayotte criticized Obama’s promise of transparency regarding the release of terrorist suspects.
In her statement issued Monday, Ayotte said she was “outraged” over the Obama administration’s decision to release a detainee that the “DoD said is not only a member of al Qaeda, but also aided the 9/11 hijackers who conducted horrific terrorist attacks on our country, killing nearly 3,000 innocent Americans.”
“Reports indicate that Slahi is not even being detained in Mauritania,” Ayotte added. “This deeply irresponsible move by this administration shows callous disregard for the federal government’s chief responsibility to keep America safe.”
Slahi has said he plans on rejoining his family and starting a business in his native country of Mauritania.
In a statement issued through the American Civil Liberties Union, Slahi said he “feels grateful and indebted to the people that have stood by me.”
Nancy Hollander, one of Slahi’s attorneys, said her client “wants nothing more than to be with his family and rebuild his life.”
Hina Shamsi, who serves as the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project and is another attorney representing Slahi, said the release “brings the U.S. one man closer to ending the travesty that is Guantanamo.”
Slahi’s release means that there are now 60 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, 19 of which have also been cleared for release. As of November 2015, the detention facility had been home to 107 prisoners.