Photos via Reem Al Harmi
A Qatari citizen who arrested by US authorities after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and detained for more than 13 years has reportedly been released after serving his sentence for conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda.
Ali bin Kahlah al-Marri, who had been classified as an “enemy combatant” by US prosecutors, was scheduled to be released from a maximum-security prison in Colorado today.
However, he was freed several days ahead of schedule and returned to Doha over the weekend, Al Jazeera reports.
“Thank God his health and spirits are very excellent. His spirits were better than ours as we did not expect him to be in such good state,” he said.
Al-Marri was working in an environmental department for the Qatar government when he was sent to the US in 2001 for an educational training program, according to local lawyer Najeeb al-Nuaimi.
Al-Nuaimi did not represent al-Marri, but is familiar with the case and has in the past represented many individuals arrested on international terrorism-related charges, including al-Marri’s brother, who was released from Guantanamo Bay several years ago.
According to the FBI, al-Marri was pulled over for a traffic infraction.
A transcript of an interview with Art Cummings, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch, said a police officer took al-Marri back to his residence and observed a large amount of cash in a suitcase.
This apparently aroused suspicions and led to al-Marri eventually being arrested on charges related to credit card fraud as intelligence officers probed his links to the Sept. 11 conspirators, Cummings was quoted as saying.
He said a search of al-Marri’s computer revealed that he had done extensive research on various chemicals chemicals and poisons, including toxicity levels and where the items could be purchased.
In the following years, al-Marri bounced between civilian courts and military tribunals – spending years in custody without being formally charged – and eventually pled guilty in a federal court in 2009 to charges of supporting al-Qaeda.
The New York Times reported he admitted to having attended terrorist training camps from 1998 to 2001.
Speaking to Doha News, Al-Nuaimi said that al-Marri made the confession as part of a plea deal for eight years in prison, with some credit for the time he had already served in custody.
It included an admission that he agreed to follow instructions given to him from al Qaeda leaders.
According to human rights organization Cage Prisoners, al-Marri may have agreed to the plea because, as his lawyer said, “…he wanted to go home.”
The group alleges that during the first 17 months of his detention, prison guards would routinely turn off the water to al-Marri’s cell and lower the temperature to “extremely cold” levels without providing him with additional clothes or blankets.
In a statement complaining about his treatment, CAGE added:
“Al-Marri, a devout Muslim, complains that military officials have not permitted him to meet with a Muslim cleric, do not let him have a prayer mat and punish him if he follows his religion’s requirement to cover his head while he prays (he uses a shirt for this purpose). They do not tell him the direction of Mecca, so he does not know in which direction to pray; nor do they provide him with a clock, so he does not know when to pray.”
Al-Nuaimi noted that prior to 2001, many Gulf residents traveled to Afghanistan – which was then under Taliban rule – and visited al Qaeda members.
He said al-Marri had traveled regularly to Pakistan and likely slipped into Afghanistan, but was not a member of the organization.
“As a member, he would have received a life sentence,” al-Nuaimi told Doha News. “It was guilt by association.”