Guantánamo

Former Guantánamo detainee in Argentina, calls for asylum

In this frame grab taken from Barricada TV, former Guantánamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, one of the Syrian refugees recently released from Guantánamo and now living in Uruguay speaks during an interview, in Buenos Aires, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. Dhiab said he was there to ask the the Argentine government to grant asylum to his former fellow inmates still being held at the U.S. prison facility in Cuba.
In this frame grab taken from Barricada TV, former Guantánamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, one of the Syrian refugees recently released from Guantánamo and now living in Uruguay speaks during an interview, in Buenos Aires, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. Dhiab said he was there to ask the the Argentine government to grant asylum to his former fellow inmates still being held at the U.S. prison facility in Cuba. AP Photo/Barricada TV

A former Guantánamo detainee who was resettled in Uruguay has appeared in neighboring Argentina, wearing a prison-style orange jumpsuit, to ask the country to grant asylum for detainees still at the U.S. detention facility.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab told Barricada TV that he believed “the Argentine government could receive the prisoners at Guantánamo here in a humanitarian way.” The 19-minute interview was published by several local websites Thursday.

Speaking in Arabic with a Spanish translator, Dhiab said he would formally request asylum for other detainees but did not elaborate. Calls to the Foreign Ministry seeking comment were not returned.

During the interview, shot Wednesday, Dhiab recounted hunger strikes he participated in and criticized the U.S. government for not closing Guantánamo.

While at Guantánamo, Dhiab was at the center of a legal battle in U.S. courts over the military’s use of force-feeding. When he arrived in Uruguay in December, he was reportedly weak as a result of repeated hunger strikes. In the video, Dhiab appears thin but overly so.

The 46-year-old Syrian was one of six men who were released in December and resettled in Uruguay. It was unclear if Dhiab was still in Argentina or if he had returned to Uruguay. Calls to his lawyer were not immediately returned.

Since January 2002, when the detention center opened at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, about 620 prisoners have been released or transferred, with the vast majority making no public statements or appearances.

A few have given interviews over the years, denouncing their treatment. Former prisoner Moazzam Begg, a British citizen released in 2005 after three years in custody, became a prominent activist campaigning against anti-terror tactics in his country and has made many speeches and public appearances over the years.

Orange jumpsuits, which are now worn only by prisoners on disciplinary status for breaking prison rules, have become a symbol of Guantanamo and are frequently worn by protesters campaigning for closure.

Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Defense, noted the use of the jumpsuits as propaganda in testimony before Congress on Feb. 5 as evidence that Guantánamo has damaged the reputation of the United States around the world. Specifically, McKeon mentioned the Islamic State, often referred to by the acronym ISIS.

“It is no coincidence that the recent ISIS videos showing the barbaric burning of a Jordanian pilot and the savage execution of a Japanese hostage each showed the victim clothed in an orange jumpsuit, believed by many to be the symbol of the Guantánamo detention facility,” McKeon said.

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