Guantánamo

Friend says ex-Guantánamo detainee weak from hunger strike

In this June 5, 2015 file photo, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, from Syria, right, and Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, of Tunisia, both freed Guantánamo detainees, stand next to the window of their shared home in Montevideo, Uruguay.
In this June 5, 2015 file photo, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, from Syria, right, and Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, of Tunisia, both freed Guantánamo detainees, stand next to the window of their shared home in Montevideo, Uruguay. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former Guantánamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab is weak from a hunger strike and could need to be hospitalized, a friend said Monday.

Dhiab, 45, who suffers health problems related to his hunger strikes and forced feedings while in U.S. custody, has repeatedly said he is unhappy in Uruguay, which took him and five other former Guantánamo prisoners in for resettlement in 2014. He has been demanding that he be allowed to leave the South American country.

It’s not clear when Dhiab began his hunger strike, but a friend, Jorge Voituret, said the former prisoner stopped drinking water Friday.

“He’s very weak and it’s possible that in the next hours he’ll have to be treated at a hospital,” said Voituret, who works for Uruguay’s Memory Museum, an organization that documents human rights violations committed during the country’s 1973-1985 military dictatorship.

Dhiab went missing from Uruguay for weeks earlier this year, alarming officials here and in neighboring countries and triggering recriminations from U.S. lawmakers. He later resurfaced in Venezuela and was deported back to Uruguay last week

The Uruguayan Foreign Ministry has said that while he was in Caracas, Dhiab tried to get help to reunite with his family in Turkey or another country before he was deported back to Uruguay last week.

Dhiab’s liaison with Uruguay’s government announced Thursday that Dhiab planned to go on a hunger strike in hopes of being allowed to go elsewhere.

Since his return to Montevideo, Dhiab has grown frustrated with a Uruguayan government-appointed NGO that owes him three months of aid, Voituret said.

“He planned to use the money to buy a telephone and a stove. He’s living in an apartment with no heating, and it gets really cold these days,” the friend said about the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months.

Gabriela Cortina, an official at the Ecumenical Services for the Human Dignity, said the NGO would not comment.

Dhiab and five other former Guantánamo detainees –— four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian — who were resettled in Uruguay in December 2014 as a humanitarian gesture by then-President Jose Mujica. They had been detained in 2002 for suspected ties to al-Qaida and held without charge like hundreds of others at the U.S. military’s Guantánamo Bay base before American officials cleared them for release.

Uruguay’s government has provided social services and financial support. But the men have struggled to adjust and have protested they don’t get enough help.

Dhiab has been the most vocal about his unhappiness. Shortly after arriving in Uruguay, he called a news conference to complain that the government needed a better resettlement plan.

Dhiab was a periodic hunger striker during his dozen years at the U.S. Navy prison in Cuba without charge. His lawyers sued on his behalf in federal court, asking a judge to order the military to halt its forced-feedings of him. The judge declined.

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