A jury of eight senior U.S. military officials sentenced Majid Khan, a suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned al Qaeda courier, to 26 years in prison on Friday, about the lowest sentence under court instructions for the terrorism-related charges he pleaded guilty to in 2012. But seven of the eight jurors also signed on to a letter asking for clemency for Khan and condemning his brutal treatment in CIA black sites before he was sent to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in 2009.
The jurors were the first to hear testimony from someone subjected to the "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Former President Barack Obama ended the program upon taking office in 2009. Khan described sexual assault, "rectal feeding" with a garden hose, being dunked in ice water to simulate drowning, and being kept in chains, naked, in dark dungeon-like secret CIA prisons in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and a third country.
Khan's torture was first disclosed in a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report.
"Mr. Khan was subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history," the jury foreman wrote in a handwritten letter obtained by The New York Times and published Sunday night. "This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to U.S. interests. Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America; the treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of U.S. personnel should be a source of shame for the U.S. government."
Khan has been cooperating with the U.S. government, and under a plea agreement not disclosed to the jurors, he will probably be free for release as soon as February or as late as 2025. His help is expected in the prosecution of five other Guantanamo prisoners being tried for planning and aiding the 9/11 attacks. He would be returned to another country that is not Pakistan, where his wife and daughter he has never met currently reside.