An ex-Guantanamo detainee rebuilds his life in France

His dark hair slicked back with gel and his broad shoulders hidden under a brown leather coat, Benchellali looks strikingly unremarkable – just another commuter hunkering down in the cafe, waiting for the storm to end.

All the same, he keeps his eyes low. As he prepares to launch into his story once more, his fingers nervously start to rip and twist the empty sugar packets from his coffee into tiny, feathery ropes. Words like ‘al-Qaeda’ and ‘bin Laden’ invariably earn him glances from surrounding tables…

This profile, of a French man once imprisoned in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, reflects on the history of America’s most infamous military prison and its enduring impact today.

Thirteen years have passed since Mourad Benchellali left its confines, but he still contends with the stigma that comes with being among Guantanamo Bay’s earliest prisoners, swept up and held without charges as the U.S. embarked on its global “war on terror.”

Read more about recovering his life back in France and Guantanamo’s ongoing legacy here.

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