MONTEVIDEO – Six prisoners formerly held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo – all of whom are considered to present no security risks – were transferred on the weekend from the prison to Uruguay, the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo reported.
The transfer comes within the framework of the commitment made by Uruguayan President Jose Mujica to accept Guantanamo prisoners after a request made months ago by U.S. President Barack Obama as part of the program to close the facility.
Diplomatic officials told Efe that, at present, the details of the former prisoners’ arrival have not been made known for security reasons, given that technically they were transferred as free “refugees,” not prisoners of war.
In a press release, the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay identified the prisoners – all of whom were said to be low-level fighters and whose transfers were authorized more than four years ago – as Akhmad Adnan Ajuri, Ali Husain Shaaban, Abdelahdi Faraj, Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, Mohammed Abdullah Taha Matan and Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
The men – four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian – are the first prisoners to be transferred to South America from the U.S. base in Cuba.
The six men had been captured in 2002 and held as suspected militants with links to al-Qaeda but they were never charged with any crimes. Although they had been cleared for release in 2009 they could not be sent home and Washington had had difficulties finding countries who were willing to accept them and allow them to settle there.
The Uruguayan leader had expressed his willingness in late March to cooperate in helping close the Guantanamo prison, which was created in 2002 by former President George W. Bush as a site where suspected Al Qaeda prisoners captured in the so-called “war on terror” could be held outside the jurisdiction of U.S. federal courts.