The US government announced on Sunday that it was transferring four Syrians, one Palestinian and a Tunisian from its prison in Guantanamo Bay to Uruguay. The Syrian Jihad Diyab was among the released prisoners, the Agence France Presse reported. He had staged a hunger strike in May this year and requested a court order against officials who were force feeding him.
Jose Mujica, Uruguay's president, agreed to host the men on humanitarian grounds and said his country would support them in establishing themselves in the nation, where the population is largely Catholic. Uruguay had expressed its readiness to accept the former detainees in January this year, but bureaucratic hurdles in the US prevented the resettlement from taking place sooner.
US State Department envoy Clifford Sloan, who is in charge of detainee transfers, told reporters: "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."
The six men were detained in 2002 but were never charged and have been cleared for release since 2010. They could not go back home and were forced to remain in prison until the US could find countries who were willing to host former terror suspects.
The US has released 19 prisoners this year, reducing the count in Guantanamo to 136. Officials expect to resettle many more inmates by the end of 2014. US President Barack Obama promised to close the controversial facility ever since he came to power, but his efforts were blocked by Congress and subsequent laws that prohibited sending prisoners to the US for any reason, including trials.
mg/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters )