MAY 13, 2008
Perhaps folding to human rights activists, the U.S. government has dropped charges against the al-Qaeda terrorist who was supposed to be the 20th hijacker in the September 11 attacks because he claims he confessed after being tortured.
Mohammed al-Qahtani was scheduled to help hijack one of the airplanes in the 2001 terrorist attacks, but was denied entry into the country by federal immigration agents at the Orlando Airport in Florida. When he tried to enter the U.S., he had more than $2,400 in cash, no return plane ticket and lead hijacker Mohamed Atta was waiting for him.
Al-Qahtani was later captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba as an enemy combatant. He eventually confessed but subsequently recanted the confession, claiming that he made it after being tortured and humiliated.
In a written statement detailing the alleged torture, the Saudi national said he was beaten, restrained for long periods in uncomfortable positions, threatened with dogs, exposed to loud music and freezing temperatures and stripped nude in front of women. Outraged human rights activists have launched a campaign denouncing the so-called torture and demanding U.S. officials be held accountable.
Al-Qahtani was one of six terrorists charged by the Pentagon earlier this year with murder and war crimes for their roles in the 2001 attacks in New York and the Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 people. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the others, including mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
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