- U.S.-born citizen captured while aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan
- Was held in solitary confinement for more than two years before being deported to Saudi Arabia
Yaser Esam Hamdi was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in September 1980. When Hamdi was a small child, he and his parents emigrated to Saudi Arabia. At age 21, Hamdi ran away from home and spent a few weeks at a Taliban training camp in Afghanistan. Soon after the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of that country, Hamdi fought alongside Taliban and al Qaeda forces against the American military. In late 2001, he was captured (with an AK-47 rifle in his possession) on an Afghan battlefield by the Northern Alliance and was turned over to U.S. troops, who in turn sent him to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. When military officials learned that Hamdi was an American citizen by birth, they relocated him to a stateside Navy brig (military prison) in Norfolk, Virginia in April 2002. They later moved him again, this time to a brig in Hanahan, South Carolina. For more than two years, Hamdi was held incommunicado and in solitary confinement as an “enemy combatant.”
In June 2004 the Supreme Court, in a major setback for the Bush administration, ruled that the “indefinite detention” of Hamdi and defendants like him “for the purpose of interrogation” was “not authorized.” According to the Court, Hamdi was entitled to a “fair opportunity to rebut the government’s factual assertions before a neutral decision-maker.” The Bush administration decided that rather than give Hamdi a hearing, it would instead negotiate his release and deportation.
In September 2004, Justice Department lawyers and Hamdi’s legal defense team announced that they had reached an agreement by which Hamdi would be set free and deported to Saudi Arabia. The terms of Hamdi’s release required that he renounce his American citizenship, pledge not to leave Saudi Arabia for a specified (though undisclosed) period of time, and promise not to sue the U.S. government over his captivity.