Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 8th 2014 Contents A37
Monday, December 8, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MIAMI---Six prisoners held for 12
years at Guantanamo Bay have been
sent to Uruguay to be resettled as
refugees, the US government
announced yesterday---a deal that
had been delayed for months by
security concerns at the Pentagon
and political considerations in the
South American country.
The six men---four Syrians, a
Tunisian and a Palestinian---are the
first prisoners transferred to South
America from the US base in Cuba,
part of a flurry of recent releases
amid a renewed push by President
Barack Obama to close the prison.
All were detained as suspected
militants with ties to al-Qaeda in
2002 but were never charged. They
had been cleared for release since
2009 but could not be sent home
and the US struggled to find coun-
tries willing to take them.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica
agreed to accept the men as a
humanitarian gesture and said they
would be given help getting estab-
lished in a country with a tiny Mus-
lim population of perhaps 300 peo-
"We are very grateful to Uruguay
for this important humanitarian
action, and to President Mujica for
his strong leadership in providing a
home for individuals who cannot
return to their own countries," US
State Department envoy Clifford
Among those transferred was Abu
Wa el Dhiab, a 43-year-old Syrian
on a long-term hunger strike protest-
ing his confinement who was at the
center of a legal battle in US courts
over the military s use of force-feed-
ing.The Pentagon identified the other
Syrians sent to Uruguay on Saturday
as Ali Husain Shaaban, 32; Ahmed
Adnan Ajuri, 37; and Abdelahdi Faraj,
39. Also released were Palestinian
prisoner Mohammed Abdullah Taha
Mattan, 35, and 49-year-old Adel
bin Muhammad El Ouerghi of
Uruguayan officials yesterday
declined comment on the transfers.
Adriana Ramos, a receptionist at a
military hospital in Montevideo, the
capital, said the six men were being
examined there but declined to pro-
vide any details.
Cori Crider, a lawyer for Dhiab
from the human rights group
Reprieve, praised Mujica, a former
political prisoner himself, for accept-
ing the men.
"Despite years of suffering, Mr
Dhiab is focused on building a pos-
itive future for himself in Uruguay,"
said Crider, who travelled to Mon-
tevideo to meet with him and was
concerned about his health after his
prolonged hunger strike.
Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer for Faraj,
said he was "deeply grateful" to
Uruguay for accepting the prison-
"By welcoming our client and the
others as refugees and free men, not
as prisoners, Uruguay has shown
US continues Guantanamo closure plan...
6 transferred to Uruguay that it truly possesses the courage of
its convictions," Kassem, a law professor
at the City University of New York,
said in an interview from Panama.
"We hope that other countries in
Latin America and throughout the world
will soon follow Uruguay s example and
help put an end to the US government s
shameful practice of indefinite impris-
onment without charge or fair process,"
The US has now transferred 19 pris-
oners out of Guantanamo this year, all
but one of them within the last 30 days.
Saturday s move brings the total number
of prisoners still at Guantanamo to
136---the lowest number since shortly
after the prison opened in January 2002.
Officials say several more releases are
expected by the end of the year.
The slow pace of releases has created
a tense atmosphere inside the prison.
A hunger strike that began in February
2013 totalled about 100 prisoners at its
peak, including Dhiab and Faraj.
The US now holds 67 men at Guan-
tanamo who have been cleared for
release or transfer but, like the six sent
to Uruguay, can t go home because they
might face persecution, a lack of security
or some other reason.
Prisoners from Guantanamo have
been sent around the world but this
weekend s transfer was the largest group
sent to the Western Hemisphere. Four
Guantanamo prisoners were sent to
Bermuda in 2009 and two were sent
to El Salvador in 2012 but have since
A horse cart passes by the military hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay,
yesterday. Six prisoners from Guantanamo Bay have been transferred to
Uruguay, the US government said yesterday. AP PHOTO
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