A truly free man – some rare good news on Guantanamo

by Matthew Leidecker, Head of Campaigns

Younous Chekkouri was told “you’re going to hell” by the American guards as they forced him on to a plane to Guantánamo. He quickly learned what they meant – 13 years of detention without trial, physical and psychological torture, separation from his family, hunger striking, force-feeding, and beatings.

In September 2015, Younous was released to Morocco. But his ordeal didn’t end there – on arrival he was held in prison for almost 5 months. Although freed from prison he faced an ongoing legal battle to fully clear his name.

On 14th February 2018, Younous was acquitted of all charges in a Moroccan court. After 16 years, he is now truly a free man.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me through these hard times, my lawyers, everyone in the United States and Europe and Morocco who has stood by me and been my friend the whole time. I cannot believe I am free. I am so happy. Thank you.”
Younous Chekkouri

Younous was born in Morocco, but moved to Pakistan when he was 22 years old with his siblings where further education was more affordable. A strong believer in giving back to society, he moved to Afghanistan in June 2001 where he did charity work and started a business. He fled the instability created by war, but was rounded up with other Arabs and taken to a prison in Kandahar, then sold to US forces.

In 2002 Younous was taken to Guantánamo. After Reprieve took up his case, six US federal agencies – including the Departments of State and Defense as well as the CIA and FBI – unanimously agreed to clear him for release in 2010.

Our fight to close Guantanamo goes on and in the Trump era, that fight is harder than ever. But news like this is proof that justice is possible. We won’t stop until, like Younous, every innocent man in Guantanamo is returned home to their families.

To everyone who supported Younous when we represented him in Guantanamo and in the years since, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Younous is now free to spend his life with his family.