The captive who wrote “Guantanamo Diary” didn’t autograph any copies of his book before he went home, but he thanked some of the troops as he ended 14 years of detention without being charged, prison staff said Saturday.
“He was very happy, probably one of the most jovial people here,” said an Army captain, an unnamed woman now serving as the commander of Camp Echo — the prison compound where Mohamedou Ould Slahi spent years apart from the other captives, and the last stop for detainees being sent away.
She quoted him as saying, “thank you for everything, and said good luck to us,” adding that “as far as I know, no,” no soldier brought him a copy of his widely published memoirs for a farewell autograph.
The book, translated into about two dozen languages, was drawn from his 2005 handwritten account of his at-times brutal Pentagon-authorized interrogation here as U.S. military intelligence agents sought to tie him to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — something he confessed to after nearly going mad through isolation, only to retract it later, apparently convincingly. He was never charged with a crime.
In the book, he comes off as an at times fearful figure who finds a way to forgive, or pity, his captors. He was allowed to write the pages only once his prison conditions improved.
In the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, the Associated Press quoted Slahi, 45, on Saturday as saying “my slogan is to not pursue complaints against anyone who made me suffer injustice.”
“Honestly, I think he was thanking us for the way that we had taken care of him here,” said Army Col. Steve Gabavics, who took charge as essentially warden of the prison earlier this year. “I wholeheartedly believed that.”
The prison’s cultural adviser, known only to the prisoners as Zaki, likewise called him “always quiet, always well behaved and always well mannered.” Zaki remarked that “so many detainees when they leave they say ‘thank you,’” adding that detention center staff have no control over which cleared captives get to go, and when. “The going-home part is not in our hands,” he said.
In keeping with the prison’s policy of not mentioning their captives by name, none of those interviewed Saturday named Slahi. Rather, they referred to him as the last captive to leave — in a stealthy U.S. mission that airlifted him from the base before dawn Oct. 17. At Guantánamo he was held as “ISN 760,” shorthand for Internment Serial Number 760.
As of Saturday, the Pentagon held 60 detainees here — 20 of them cleared for release, 10 charged or convicted of war crimes, and 30 others neither charged with crimes nor cleared for release, instead held as indefinite detainees in the war on terror.