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New York Times tracks Majid Khan’s first days of freedom in Belize

Posted: Friday, February 10, 2023. 1:19 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: What would be the first thing you do after 20 years imprisoned?

42-year-old Majid Khan, released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a week ago Thursday, is in Belize, where he spent his first few days catching up with family, eating, shopping for his new home paid for by the United States government and making plans.

The New York Times reports that Khan called The Jewel “the perfect place, honest to God,” for a man like him seeking to become “a productive member of society.”

And he made sure to give thanks to God, praying in the Muslim tradition for 10 minutes in a laundry room below the dining room at the restaurant he was eating at after a waitress told him he didn’t need to leave the door open so that he could pray undisturbed.

And he was also busy chatting to anyone who would listen about his plans and ambitions and observations, rapid-fire: running a restaurant, maybe even running for public office, as he said he told Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay on landing in Belize to “tell the prime minister.” Excited, he declared: “I want to go back to work. Don’t tell me to chill out, man.”

For now, at least, Khan doesn’t appear worried about whether he will be accepted by Belizeans sceptical of his past. He was the first prisoner to be freed from Guantánamo Bay who had been held there as a “high-value detainee,” the intelligence community’s phrase for a former prisoner of the Bush administration’s secret torture program of “enhanced interrogation.”

He is looking forward to joining Belize’s Muslim community, based mostly in Belize City and numbering about 600 spread between two mosques – the Masjid Al-Falah on Central American Boulevard and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque on the George Price Highway.

He took with him from Guantánamo 46 pages of poetry, a well-worn Quran and Cheetah, the year-old tabby cat who had appeared in his razor-wire-topped prison compound as a kitten. A U.S. Army veterinarian neutered and vaccinated the cat, who then travelled to Belize in a cage. An example of the poetry he left behind: “On this day, Feb. 2, 2023 … God set me free … My actions hurt others, like the sting of a bee. May they forgive me. I can say this or that, A to Z. To prove my sceptics wrong, I hope to be…Majid Khan has left the building.”

To give the Khan family a solid foundation for a fresh start, Courtenay said, Belize had required that the United States provide funds to buy him a home, a phone (a brand new iPhone 13), a laptop and a car.

Khan spoke to most of his family in a “raucous family reunion” and is now settled in his home, awaiting the arrival of his wife and the daughter he had yet to meet in person from Pakistan.


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