The following is a script from “Prisoner 760,” which aired on March 12, 2017. Holly Williams is the correspondent. Keith Sharman, producer. Erin Horan, associate producer.
President Obama tried and failed to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, a place he believed, quote, “hinders…our fight against terrorism.” President Trump disagreed and has vowed to quote “load it up with some bad dudes.” Just 41 prisoners remain at Guantanamo and of the nearly 800 who were there at some point, not many have been interviewed. But tonight, Holly Williams has the story of one very unusual former detainee in his first television interview.
Mohamedou Slahi was set free by the United States and sent to his home country of Mauritania last October after 14 years as prisoner 760 in Guantanamo Bay. Improbably, while fighting for his own release, he taught himself English, wrote a bestselling book about his life in American custody, and became good friends with some of his guards, one of whom you’ll hear from tonight.
Slahi spent about one third of his life at Guantanamo and his book offered an unprecedented look inside the prison. Though it includes descriptions of torture, it can be funny at times and we discovered that in person Slahi has a keen sense of humor. Six weeks after he was released from Guantanamo, we went to northwest Africa to meet him.
Holly Williams: What’s it like losing all control over your life?
Mohamedou Slahi: It sucks. It’s very challenging. I don’t know how to describe it in words. But you feel like humiliation. You feel self-pity. You feel like– panic. I didn’t have a plan. I was learning as I was going.
Mohamedou Slahi is once again adapting to unfamiliar surroundings. This time: home and freedom. To learn how he went from here to Guantanamo and back again we traveled to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. It’s a tribal and deeply religious nation of nearly four million people, where the Sahara desert meets the sea.