One of two remaining detainees held in the United States military prison in Guantanamo Bay was sent home on Tuesday after spending 13 years in detention without trial.
Fawzi Al-Odah arrived to Kuwait with the cooperation of the Kuwaiti government. He and fellow detainee Fayez Al-Kandari, who remains in Guantanamo, were arrested in northern Pakistan in late 2001 by tribesmen who sold them to the Pakistan army, who in turn handed them over to the US. The detainees defence attorneys had long argued the lack of evidence against their clients.
Al-Odah’s father, Khalid Al-Odah, said in several interviews over the years that his son was a teacher in Afghanistan who had been wrongly seized by bounty hunters.
Guantanamo’s Periodic Review Board determined in a hearing July that “continued law of war detention of (Al-Odah) does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
The board concluded, however, that Al-Odah may have had low level training with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but not a leadership position in either group. He is required to undergo militant rehabilitation in Kuwait.
Meanwhile, the review board recommended against the release of Fayez Al-Kandari, ruling that “he almost certainly retains an extremist mind-set and had close ties with high level Al-Qaeda leaders in the past.”
Odah’s release comes a day after a major election defeat for US President Barak Obama, who blames Congress for blocking his attempts to shut down the controversial prison. Republicans will now control both congressional chambers for the first time since 2006.
In May, five Taliban detainees were also released in exchange for the return of US Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years in Afghanistan. The move, which Obama put into effect by bypassing Congress, sparked anger from Republicans.
Opened in 2002, Guantanamo prison has housed 779 inmates detained in connection to the US war on terror, many of whom were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding. The US Naval Base prison in Cuba currently holds 148 detainees.