Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner released to Italy
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — U.S. troops delivered a long-cleared Yemeni detainee to Italy over the weekend, the Pentagon disclosed Sunday, in a downsizing of the Guantanamo prison to 78 or fewer captives.
Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman, 41, left before dawn Saturday in a transfer not acknowledged by military leaders on the base, suggesting that more releases are in the works.
Suleiman got to the crude Camp X-Ray compound in its first week, on Jan. 17, 2002. He was never charged with a crime and was cleared for release in 2009 by an Obama administration task force. But State Department officials had to find a nation to take him for resettlement because, as a Yemeni, he could not go home.
The Bush and Obama administrations have mostly forbidden repatriations of Yemenis to the violence-wracked Arabian peninsula nation with a powerful post-9/11 al-Qaida franchise.
In all his years at Guantanamo, Suleiman never saw an attorney, according to one of his lawyers of record, Jon Sands, an Arizona federal public defender. But Suleiman recently asked to meet, said Sands, who was making plans to travel to the base to see him in August.
Sands said he did not believe Suleiman had any family ties in Italy but declared the country “a good place for anyone. It's a good place for him, and we hope he can find some peace after his detention at Guantanamo.”
Upon learning of the release, Sands said: “It's better than many other locations, and maybe it's part of the G-exit strategy,” referring to President Obama's continuing quest to close the detention center. The transfer left at most 29 detainees cleared for release at the base, all but seven of them Yemenis awaiting similar resettlement arrangements.