Latin America & Caribbean

Guantanamo six 'will enjoy complete freedom' in Uruguay

Military hospital in Montevideo Image copyright AP
Image caption The six former inmates were taken to a military hospital in Montevideo

Six prisoners released from the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay will enjoy complete freedom in Uruguay, the country's defence minister says.

Eleuterio Huidobro told Reuters news agency that Uruguay had not imposed or accepted any conditions when it agreed to receive the former inmates.

The six men arrived in Montevideo on Sunday after being freed by the US.

They spent 12 years in jail for alleged ties with al-Qaeda but were never charged.

The former inmates - four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian - were taken to a military hospital for health checks.

The Pentagon identified them as Abu Wael Dhiab, Ali Husain Shaaban, Ahmed Adnan Ajuri, and Abdelahdi Faraj, from Syria; Palestinian Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, and Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, from Tunisia.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said they had been subjected to "an atrocious kidnapping".

Mr Huidobro told Reuters: "They will not be restricted in any way. Their status is that of refugees and immigrants."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Mujica has spoken out against the Guantanamo Bay detention centre
Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 100 prisoners remain at the US-run prison

'Black hole'

US President Barack Obama has pledged to close the camp in Cuba, which was opened in 2002 as a place to detain enemy combatants in America's war on terror.

About half of the 136 men still in Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer but have nowhere to go because their countries are unstable or unsafe.

In Latin America, El Salvador is the only other country to have given Guantanamo prisoners sanctuary, taking two in 2012.

One of the former detainees, Abdelahdi Faraj, published an open letter through his lawyer in New York thanking Mr Mujica for his decision.

"Were it not for Uruguay, I would still be in the black hole in Cuba today," he said.

"I have no words to express how grateful I am for the immense trust that you, the Uruguayan people, have placed in me and the other prisoners by opening the doors to your country."

Mr Mujica was himself held for over a decade in harsh prison conditions during Uruguay's period of military rule in the 1970s and 1980s.

He made the decision to take detainees from Guantanamo in March but the move was delayed until after November's presidential elections.

He was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election, but the vote was won by his party's candidate, Tabare Vasquez, who begins his term in March.

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