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Guantanamo detainee who served bin Laden returns to Sudan

Abd Raouf / AP

Sudanese national Ibrahim al Qosi prays upon arrival at Khartoum airport in Khartoum, Sudan. Al Qosi arrived before dawn on a US Air Force aircraft after his release from 10 years in detention.

Ibrahim al Qosi, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, has been released from Guantanamo and returned to Sudan, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

In July 2010, al Qosi pleaded guilty to providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy. He had been detained at Guantanamo following his capture at the Pakistani border in December 2001 and was released according to a plea agreement with the U.S.


Al Qosi, who was born in Sudan around 1960, left in 1996 to join Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, where he provided services to bin Laden and other al-Qaida members as a driver, bodyguard and cook. In the early 1990s, he trained with jihadists and worked as an accountant for a company affiliated with Osama bin Laden, according to DOD documents released by WikiLeaks.

Al Qosi had been sentenced to a 14-year term for crimes committed between 1996 to 2001, but served two years in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors. The U.S. had agreed to return al Qosi to Sudan upon completing two years of his sentence.

"Although the United States had the legal authority to continue holding al Qosi under the [Authorization for the Use of Military Force], we coordinated with the Government of Sudan on appropriate security measures to mitigate any threat he continues to pose," said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale in a statement to msnbc.com.

Paul Reichler, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who represented al Qosi pro bono for the past seven years, said his client will participate in a re-entry program designed by the Sudanese government for former detainees.

According to a document published by the government in 2010, nine Sudanese nationals had been returned from Guantanamo and been subject to the re-entry program. At that time, none were known to "have engaged in hostilities against the United States, its interests or its allies since their return to Sudan." 

"I’m very glad that he’s a free man," said Reichler, who added that he would have withdrawn his representation of al Qosi if at any time he seemed to be a terrorist or a threat to the U.S. According to al Qosi's court statement, he had no knowledge or or participation in the 1998 Tanzania and Kenya embassy attacks or the September 11 attacks, though he continued to provide logistical support to al-Qaida after these events.

"I believe he is a decent and honorable person whose only desire is to go home to his family, live in peace and tranquility and engage in productive labor in his family business, and he has no desire to be associated with violent movements of any kind," said Reichler.

Al Qosi arrived in the capital city of Khartoum Tuesday evening Eastern time, and according to court documents, will live with his wife, two daughters and other family members upon returning. In a letter to the Military Commission in January 2011, al Qosi's mother and father said that he would manage a family shop in the town of Atira.

One-hundred and sixty-eight detainees remain at Guantanamo. Reichler, who does not represent any other Guantanamo clients, said that many detainees might be interested in negotiating a plea agreement, but that there has been a high degree of skepticism that the U.S. would honor its word.

With al Qosi's release, Reichler said, "I suspect that there will be many who will seek plea agreements."

Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at msnbc.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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