A freed Guantánamo detainee who left the Pacific island nation of Palau, where the United States had sent him for safe haven, is not missing but has actually resettled in Turkey.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that Adel Noori, 43, a man from China who is of Uighur ethnicity, had disappeared from Palau and said that he was missing.
But U.S. officials had known since late last year that Noori had grown impatient with U.S. efforts to find him and his Turkish wife a permanent home and the couple had managed to relocate to her homeland.
“He’s not missing; he’s definitely not disappeared,” said one of two U.S. government officials who discussed the episode on condition of anonymity because only the State Department was authorized to answer questions on the matter.
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Left unclear was how Noori, who was technically stateless and had no travel documents as a condition of his temporary refuge in Palau, had reached Turkey.
Noori was one of six Uighur men for whom the Obama administration arranged temporary resettlement in Palau in October 2009 as part of an effort to empty the prison camps in southeast Cuba and close the detention center.
The United States paid the Palauan government of Johnson Toribiong $600,000 to take care of the men. That money has run out, and Toribiong lost reelection last year to Thomas Esang Remengesau Jr., who took office Jan. 17 after Noori had left the country with the knowledge of the Torbiong administration, according to a knowledgeable U.S. official.
According to the Associated Press, a Palau newspaper called Tia Belau reported that Noori worked as a security guard at a local community college but hadn’t appeared at work for two months.
At the State Department, all spokesman Ian Moss would say was this: “We are aware of Mr. Noori’s departure from Palau. We are not going to comment on diplomatic discussions with another government or on the whereabouts of a private individual.”
A federal judge ruled in October 2008 that 17 Uighurs were unlawfully held at Guantánamo as “enemy combatants” and ordered their release. Some went to Bermuda and others to Switzerland, but the largest group was sent to Palau in a process of release that is still under way. Because three Uighurs spurned Palau’s offer to stay there temporarily, they are still in a special U.S. prison compound in Guantánamo called Camp Iguana.
As Muslims from the restive region of Xinjiang in western China, the Uighurs could not be repatriated to China, the Bush administration concluded, for fear of persecution by the communist government.