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Washington deported to Riyadh a Saudi engineer who had been detained for 21 years in the Guantanamo military prison on suspicion of his involvement in the September 11 attacks, without any charges being brought against him.

The Pentagon said that the released person is Ghassan Abdullah Al-Sharbi, 48, who hails from the city of Jeddah. He was arrested in March 2002 in Faisalabad, Pakistan, along with another member, who Washington says is in Al-Qaeda.

Al-Sharbi was suspected because he studied engineering at an aeronautics university in Arizona and attended flight classes with two of those Washington says hijacked the planes used to carry out the attacks.

Initially, the Pentagon intended to press charges against him, but this did not happen. Al-Sharbi remained detained in the prison of the military base on the island of Cuba, and he was described as an “enemy combatant.”

Until the beginning of last year, al-Sharbi’s fate in Guantanamo was unclear, as the US authorities did not press charges against him to try him on the basis of them, nor did they agree to his release like others.

However, his fate changed in February 2022, when a Pentagon committee charged with reviewing requests for release issued a decision authorizing the release of Al-Sharbi, justifying its decision that Al-Sharbi had never occupied a leadership position in the hierarchy of Al-Qaeda, and was, throughout his detention, abiding by the prison rules.

The committee also justified its decision that al-Sharbi suffers from “physical and mental problems,” the nature of which was not specified.

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In its decision, the committee said that Al-Sharbi is eligible to join the Saudi-run program to rehabilitate militants.

The Saudi program aims to persuade militants to gradually abandon extremist ideology, while ensuring that they remain under surveillance as they return to civilian life.

With Al-Sharbi’s release, the number of Guantanamo detainees drops to 31, out of 800 detainees.

Copyright: GettyImages

Image caption: The infamous Guantamo, where the 21-year-old Saudi engineer Ghassan al-Sharbi was held without any charge of a crime.