NEW YORK—PEN America welcomes today the confirmation that Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been released from Guantánamo Bay and transferred to Mauritania by U.S. authorities, where he is set to be reunited with his family. Slahi, author of the bestselling memoir Guantánamo Diary, had been held at the U.S.-run detention camp for 14 years.

“We are overjoyed that Mohamedou Slahi’s ordeal has finally ended,” said Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs at PEN America. “However, many others remain in protracted limbo. We urge the U.S. government to bring to an end to the shameful practice of indefinite detentions by processing the cases of all remaining prisoners at Guantánamo—including 19 others already cleared for release.”

Slahi appeared before the Periodic Review Board (PRB)—comprised of national security, intelligence, and other officials—in June 2016, and was cleared for release in July on the grounds that he does not pose a significant threat to the United States. He had been held at Guantánamo since August 2002, a year after he was detained in Mauritania at the request of the U.S. government, despite the fact that a federal judge determined his detention was unlawful and ordered his release in 2010.

Slahi’s memoir, a unique snapshot of life in captivity at Guantánamo, is based on his 466-page handwritten manuscript penned while in detention. It was published with numerous redactions in January 2015, becoming a bestseller in the U.S. Guantánamo Diary has since been translated into multiple languages for publication in several dozen countries. The memoir was edited by Larry Siems, PEN America’s Free Expression Director for more than a decade, who played a lead role in advocating for Slahi’s release and in helping his work to reach a wider audience. PEN America staged an event featuring Slahi’s work in 2015, at which leading American authors, artists, and activists read excerpts detailing his first-hand account of imprisonment, torture, and day-to-day human interactions in the world’s most infamous detention camp.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: [email protected], +1 (646) 779.4830