JEDDAH, 20 May 2006 — Fifteen Saudis, who were released by the United States from its detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba returned home yesterday morning. Interior Minister Prince Naif confirmed their arrival in Riyadh and hoped the remaining Saudi detainees would be repatriated soon.
The release came a day before a UN committee against torture comprising 10 independent experts asked the United States to close its Guantanamo detention center and its secret prisons abroad, saying they violated international law.
On Thursday, prisoners wielding fans, light fixtures and other improvised weapons clashed with guards trying to stop a detainee from committing suicide at the detention center, the US military said. Four prisoners attempted suicide in a single day.
The clash occurred in a medium-security section of the camp as guards were responding to the fourth attempted suicide that day, said Cmdr. Robert Durand. Detainees struck guards as they entered a communal living area to stop a prisoner who was trying to hang himself, Durand said.
Prince Naif thanked US authorities for the release of the Saudi detainees and said the Kingdom would carry on its efforts “to obtain the repatriation of the Saudis still held in Guantanamo in the near future,” the Saudi Press Agency reported. “We will allow their relatives to visit them,” the minister said.
Relatives have been advised to contact 01-4034375 to know the whereabouts of the released.
The Interior Ministry identified the released 15 as: Saad Farhan Al-Maliki, Khaled Abdullah Al-Mauraki, Ibrahim Dhaifallah Al-Sahli, Khaled Rashid Al-Marri, Adel Uqla Al-Ruwaili, Saud Bazghan Al-Otaibi, Abdul Hadi ibn Muhammad Al-Subaie, Muhammad ibn Jayed Al-Subaie, Fahd Saleh Al-Jutaili, Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Rasheedan, Abdul Rahman Othman Al-Ghamdi, Abdullah Hamid Al-Qahtani, Nawaf ibn Fahd Al-Otaibi, Rashid Awad Al-Owaida and Adnan Muhammad Al-Sayigh.
Talal Al-Zahrani, father of Yasser, a detainee who still languishes in Cuba, told Arab News that the recent release bodes well for getting his own son back.
“We are extremely happy about the release of the men, whom I also consider my sons. I am very optimistic and have faith in God that my son and the rest will be released.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki told Arab News: “Tremendous efforts are being made to bring back all Saudis imprisoned outside the Kingdom including the ones in Guantanamo Bay.” He said relatives of the released prisoners have been arriving in Riyadh to meet them. “We have provided accommodation and transportation to these relatives,” Turki said.
Lawyer Katib Al-Shammari, who represents families of the Gitmo prisoners, said a large number of relatives of the Saudi detainees had arrived at the airport before knowing the names of the released.
Um Sulaim was in tears when she came to know through radio that the name of her son was not among the released. “When will my son be released?” she asked.
The UN committee which examined the US record at home and abroad, urged President George W. Bush’s administration to “rescind any interrogation technique” that constituted torture or cruel treatment, citing use of dogs to terrify detainees.
Human rights groups have accused the United States of mistreating detainees through cruel interrogation methods including “water-boarding,” a form of mock drowning.
— Additional input from Mohammed Rasooldeen and Abdul Maqsood Mirza