Latin America & Caribbean

Uruguayans 'show warmth' for Guantanamo six

Former Guantanamo prison inmate Syrian Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Diyab (R)with an unidentified union member in a house provided by national labour union federation PIT-CNT in Montevideo on December 11, 2014 is seen drinking "mate" Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former Guantanamo prison inmate Syrian Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Diyab (R) seen drinking the traditional herbal "mate" tea beloved by Uruguayans

A lawyer for one of the six ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoners given sanctuary by Uruguay says the men have been greeted with a wave of affection.

Cori Crider said officials hugged the men, while smiling strangers offered words of encouragement.

Ms Crider said the six men were bought bathing suits so they could eventually enjoy the beaches of Uruguay.

Uruguay said the decision to take the men in was humanitarian.

'Hugged'

"It is like nothing I have every seen in the years I have been doing this work. The warmth from the people on the street is unbelievable," said Ms Crider.

Ms Crider, who is lawyer for Abu Wa'el Dhiab, said all except Mr Dhiab had now been released from medical care this morning and are in housing provided by a local trades union.

"When Abu Wa'el was on the ward, in the hospital, and he was taken around for various medical tests, he came back and he said it was amazing, other patients were leaning out of their rooms and waving and smiling.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former Guantanamo detainees Ahmed Adnan Ahjam (C) and Omar Mahmoud Faraj (L) were seen out for a walk in a Montevideo neighbourhood accompanied by a police officer (R)

"I had exactly the same experience walking around the town... I got hugged in the supermarket, this is really not the reception I am used to."

She said Mr Dhiab was still unable to walk and remained under medical supervision.

Abu Wa'el Dhiab had spent an estimated seven years protesting against his detention through hunger strike.

The Uruguayan newspaper, El Pais, published reports that the men had been seen going out for a walk along the main street in Montevideo.

The paper reported trade union representatives as saying that they had received a basement full of clothing donations for the men.

It said they had received around 30 offers of work, one from a landowner and another from the owner of a restaurant who offered the men the chance to run it.

The men have started to learn Spanish with teachers who are working for free.

An October opinion poll had shown 58% of Uruguayans were opposed to bringing in the prisoners.

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

Uruguayan President Jose Mujuca made the decision to take detainees 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 takes office in March.

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