Guantánamo detainees sent to Kuwait, Belgium

 

crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

Belgium on Friday became the latest European nation to resettle a freshly released Guantánamo detainee, confirming ``the free man'' would be provided work papers and ``a smooth integration into society.''

State-run Belgian media said the freed captive, who was pointedly not identified, arrived at the military airport in Melsbroek.

A foreign ministry statement urged the media to protect his privacy, noting he was being offered an opportunity to integrate into Belgian society ``after a particularly difficult time in Guantánamo.''

It did not elaborate but emphasized that the former detainee, whose nation of birth was also withheld, had been cleared of charges by a U.S. court.

``He comes to Belgium as a free man, and all the necessary measures for adaptation and rapid integration are being provided,'' it said. Bermuda, France, Ireland and Portugal have also granted resettlement privileges to foreign men once held at the prison camps whom the Obama administration has chosen to let go. Spain and the Pacific island nation of Palau have said they would soon follow.

The latest U.S. military transport mission from the remote Navy base, coupled with Kuwait sending a jet to collect cleared captive Khalid Mutairi, 34, raised to 20 the number of detainees sent from the base this year.

Eighteen were freed. One was sent to New York for trial as an alleged co-conspirator in the East Africa embassies bombing and the 20th committed suicide and his remains were repatriated to Yemen.

It also lowered to 221 the detainee census at the prison camps, of whom the Pentagon's war crimes prosecutor says perhaps 65 might face military trial. Ten are currently charged.

Ambassador Daniel Fried, President Barack Obama's Guantánamo closure czar, has been shuttling between the State Department and Europe, mostly, to find countries to absorb long-held war on terror prisoners that the new administration has concluded are safe enough to let go.

Mutairi went home three months after a federal judge in Washington ruled the Pentagon evidence against him was insufficient to hold him. Defense lawyers said he was inaugurating a Kuwaiti rehabilitation center at the emirate designed to help men jailed for years as jihadists reenter society in the oil-rich emirate.

``The new facility will provide detainees with access to education, medical care, group discussions and physical exercise to help them recover from their long ordeal in Guantánamo,'' said a statement issued by a Kuwaiti support group that announced Mutairi's repatriation.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has likewise cleared fellow Kuwaiti Fouad Rabia, 50, on grounds he was held for years in a case of mistaken identity but the Justice and Defense Department's are still studying his file to decide whether to appeal to another civilian court rather than let him go.

A U.S. Justice Department statement identified Mutairi but withheld the name of the other man freed noting the privacy consideration was at the request of the Government of Belgium.

The transfer to Belgium came one month after a team of experts visited the prison camps in southeast Cuba to interview a candidate for resettlement who had been suggested by the Obama administration.

Spain may be next to receive up to three men freed from Guantánamo. The EFE news agency reported on Thursday that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero planned to conclude the agreement with Obama during a White House visit next week.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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