Return flight in a Taliban private jet: Afghanistan welcomes Guantanamo prisoners like heroes

Asadullah Haroon was never charged and still served 15 years in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.

Return flight in a Taliban private jet: Afghanistan welcomes Guantanamo prisoners like heroes

Asadullah Haroon was never charged and still served 15 years in one of the most notorious prisons in the world. After his release, the contrast could hardly be greater: he flies back to Afghanistan in a private jet with representatives of the Taliban and is publicly celebrated there.

An Afghan who was released from the US prison camp in Guantanamo in Cuba after 15 years has been welcomed like a hero in his homeland. Asadullah Haroon traveled to Kabul from Qatar by private jet and was accompanied by senior Taliban officials, official photos showed. Haroon had spent 15 years in the notorious prison camp without ever being charged. He was arrested by US soldiers in 2006 while traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In his homeland, the 40-year-old was now received with a celebration: on the road leading away from the airport, huge pictures of Haroon were attached to lanterns. "My first question is on what basis I was detained in Guantanamo," Haroon, who wore a black Taliban turban, told journalists after his arrival.

About his time in Guantanamo, he reported that the worst thing was "not the physical abuse, but rather the mental stress," which had increased "day by day." "We called it 'white torture,'" Haroon said.

Haroon's family, who fled to Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and live in Peshawar, learned of the release on Friday and cheered the news. "It's like a candy feast in our house, like a wedding," Haroon's brother Roman Khan said.

Washington had accused Haroon of being a courier for the al-Qaeda terrorist network and a commander of the Hizb-i-Islami group. His family admitted that he belonged to Hizb-i-Islami but denied any connection to al-Qaeda. According to the Taliban, the release was preceded by "direct" negotiations between the Taliban and the US government.

The responsible US commission had still rejected the release of the man in 2020, but then agreed in October last year. She explained that Haroon had not taken a leading role in an extremist organization and had also "showed remorse".

As a result, there is currently only one Afghan prisoner in Guantanamo: Muhammad Rahim, who arrived there in March 2008. The CIA has accused him of being a confidant of former al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Kahar Balchi said he was "hopeful" that Rahim would soon be released.

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