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Feb 2, 2023

Gitmo Detainee Majid Khan to Resettle in Belize, 20 Years Later

A forty-two-year-old Pakistani national arrived at the P.G.I.A. earlier today and was met by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  That individual had spent half of his life thus far, locked up in a military prison within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, a controversial detention facility that will be closed in the months ahead.  So who is Majid Khan and why did the Briceño administration agree to have him relocated to Belize as a free man?  This morning at the Laing Building in Belize City, Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay, U.S. Ambassador Michelle Kwan and a representative of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs were present for a lengthy press conference on the decision to have Khan resettled in Belize.  Despite being invited to attend the briefing, the media was not privy to the topic of the conference until it was called to order.  What we can tell you is the Government of Belize, notwithstanding Khan’s high-profile status, is confident that he is no threat to Belize or Belizeans.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has our first story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

This morning at the Phillip Goldson International Airport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the United States Embassy, welcomed Majid Shoukat Khan to Belize.  The Pakistani national is not the most recent government representative abroad to touch down in the Jewel.  In fact, he arrived from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he spent the last twenty years in U.S. custody.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Try to imagine for a moment being incarcerated for twenty years, solitary confinement for years on end, no contact with the outside world.  He had no cell phone, no… today when he arrived at the airport and there were about, maybe six or seven of us greeting him, he was totally discombobulated, saying, “There’s so many people here.  There’s a room.  Wow, I’m drinking out of a ceramic cup.”  So what I am trying to say to you, for Belizean purposes, this man is seeing freedom for the first time in twenty years.”


But who is Majid Shoukat Khan?  He was born in Medina, Saudi Arabia in February 1980 and grew up in Pakistan until 1996, when he relocated to Baltimore, Maryland along with his family.  Several years later, he would be captured by CIA agents in Karachi, Pakistan.


Eamon Courtenay

“Mr. Khan was involved in certain terrorist activities between 2002 and 2003.  He was captured in March 2003 in Pakistan and has been in custody since then, just under twenty years.  After his capture, Mr. Khan was held at various CIA black sites.  During this time, Khan was subjected to the most horrific torture, including waterboarding, force enemas, starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assaults, grueling interrogations and mental torture.”


Those consequences are the result of Khan traveling to his home country in 2002, where his family had arranged for him to be married.  During that time he met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of several conspirators who coordinated the 9/11 terror attacks.  Later that year, Khan rendezvoused with an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Thailand where he delivered fifty thousand U.S. dollars that would help to fund 2003 Marriot Hotel bombing.  That incident in Jakarta, Indonesia claimed the lives of twelve persons.


Tina Kaidanow

Tina Kaidanow, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

“This is an individual, as you pointed out, Mr. Khan, who for almost, I mean, in an amazing way and a remarkable way, as I said, he accepted what he did.  He said he was remorseful.  He has now evinced a great deal of excitement at coming, the idea of coming to Belize and is deeply hopeful, I know this personally, he is deeply hopeful that he would be able to find a home here.”


According to Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay, Khan’s resettlement to Belize, notwithstanding his lengthy detention at Gitmo, was preceded by an extensive vetting process that included at least two Cabinet discussions, as well as visits by Belizean officials to the naval base in Cuba.


Eamon Courtenay

“We had the police who went with us to Guantanamo Bay to interview him and to question him and to get their own assessment of him.  We had the National Security Advisor who also visited and did his own analysis.  I should point out that a tremendous amount of paperwork had been provided to us which had to be analyzed by the security forces.  We also were accompanied by Dr. Fernando Cuellar who did the medical assessment and is satisfied that he is not unwell and that the treatment that he needs because of what he went through. As I understand him, he got injured from playing basketball or something or the other.  The medication is available, so we had medical and security and we dealt also with the political and diplomatic arrangements that were necessary.”


Majid Khan

United States Ambassador Michelle Kwan shared a statement that was put together by Brian Nichols, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.


Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan, U.S. Ambassador

“The Government of Belize’s decision to resettle Majid Khan who has completed his sentence brought by the Office of Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay represents an important humanitarian gesture.  Mr. Khan entered a plea agreement in 2012 and since that time has fully cooperated with the U.S. government.  Belize’s commitment to human rights as evidenced by its generous support in working with the United States to resettle Mr. Khan.”


Following what it says was a thorough vetting process, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has allayed all concerns regarding any potential threat that would be posed by Majid Khan.


Eamon Courtenay

“Importantly, the Government of Belize has determined that Mr. Khan does not, I repeat, does not pose threat to the security of Belizeans.  In making this determination, the Government of Belize relied heavily on the assessments prepared by the U.S. officials who interviewed him over the years and who are satisfied that he is truly remorseful and simply wants to move on with his life. As part of that resettlement process, the Government of Belize has put in place a proactive multi-agency monitoring mechanism to monitor his activities, facilitate his integration into Belizean society.  Furthermore, Mr. Khan will not be issued a travel document and will not be allowed to travel internationally for several years.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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