Issa Khan. McClatchy Photo.
A former detainee held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly three years has been arrested in Pakistan on terrorism charges. Pakistani officials told Agence France Presse that Issa Khan, who had been detained in Afghanistan in late 2001, held at Gitmo, and then repatriated to Pakistan in September 2004, was arrested today in the Bannu district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
“We have arrested doctor Issa Khan. He was wanted on different terrorism charges,” a local Pakistani official told AFP. An anonymous Pakistani intelligence official was also cited by AFP as saying that Khan was a Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban) commander prior to his most recent arrest.
Khan has long been suspected of rejoining the terror network. An analysis (PDF) prepared by the US Department of Defense in April 2009 listed Khan as a “suspected” recidivist who was wanted for his “association” with the Pakistani Taliban.
The Pakistani government sought Khan’s release from Gitmo, along with dozens of other Pakistanis held there. On September 17, 2004, Khan and 34 other Pakistanis were sent back to their home country. Khan’s release occurred before a combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) at Gitmo was able to hear his case. Therefore, there are no publicly-available documents detailing the allegations that were levied against him.
Khan and his family members claimed he was an innocent man who was wrongly detained. Their protests garnered a substantive hearing in the press. An Oct. 29, 2002, account in Time magazine claimed, based on a letter Khan sent to his family, and his family’s testimony, that Khan was “was nothing more than a fool in love, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.” According to this account, Khan traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 merely to visit his wife, who had taken their child to Mazar-e-Sharif to visit her family.
Another account, based on an interview with Khan after his release from Gitmo, appeared in McClatchy Newspapers in 2008. According to this version of his story, Khan “said he’d moved [to Afghanistan] in 1998 with his wife, an Afghan, and set up a small medical practice.”
The two versions are contradictory. In the Time account of his life, Khan was a newcomer to Afghanistan in 2001. According to the McClatchy version, Khan had moved to Afghanistan three years earlier, in 1998.
The only connection to the Taliban that Khan and his family conceded was through his father-in-law, who was, according to these press accounts, the Taliban’s “chief judge” in Mazar-e-Sharif prior to the US-led invasion.
There is another possible contradiction in the various versions of Khan’s tale. Time magazine quoted Khan’s words from a letter he had written to his family while he was detained at Gitmo. “Don’t worry about me,” Khan wrote. “I’m happy. I’ve even given up smoking.”
Later, when he was interviewed by McClatchy, Khan claimed he had been beaten and humiliated at Guantanamo. He alleged that detainees were abused and said it was the cause of their recidivism. In another McClatchy piece, Khan claimed: “A lot of our friends are working against the Americans now, because if you torture someone without any reason, what do you expect?”
“Many people who were in Guantanamo are now working with the Taliban,” Khan added.
It is possible that Khan simply made up his claims of innocence, abuse, and torture. But as his recent arrest shows, whatever the reasons, former Guantanamo detainees are working with the Taliban.