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Kuwaiti Detainee Released After Nearly 13 Years at Guantanamo

  • VOA News

A Kuwaiti prisoner was released from the U.S. naval base at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday, leaving nearly 150 detainees in the island's controversial military facility.

Now 37 years old, Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda left on a Kuwaiti government plane before dawn, bound for his home country after spending nearly 13 years in U.S. detention.

Al Awda, also known as Fawzi al-Odah, was one of the first people taken to the prison after it opened to house foreign terrorism suspects in 2002.

Unclassified public documents from the U.S. Department of Defense allege that in August 2001, Al Awda traveled from Kuwait to Afghanistan to "probably" attend "terrorist training."

The government added that he "possibly fought alongside the Taliban and al-Qaida." He continues to deny the allegations.

Son of Kuwaiti colonel

In interviews, Al Awda, the son of a Kuwaiti air force colonel who participated in the U.S. efforts to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, admitted to visiting Afghanistan. But he insisted it was for humanitarian reasons, to work with the poor and teach the Quran.

The review board, which determines inmates' release prospects, said Al Awda was eligible to return home because he had a "low level of training and lack of a leadership position in al-Qaida or the Taliban."

The Pentagon also said Al Awda has not provided valuable information on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nearly 800 men were imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002. The majority were released without charges. Seven were convicted in military commissions, through trials or pleas.

About 80 more Guantanamo Bay inmates are cleared for release without being charged.

Al Awda was the first inmate freed since late May, when five Taliban Guantanamo detainees were swapped for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly pledged to close the prison.

'Constant security surveillance'

But Al Awda's release does not amount to full-fledged freedom.

A statement by his attorney outlining the conditions of his release noted he will be under "constant security surveillance" in Kuwait.

For at least the next year, he will be in a rehabilitation program within the high-security Kuwait Central Prison.

After that, he will be required to check in weekly with local police and comply with home visits from rehabilitation professionals. Al Awda can't leave Kuwait and he will be physically and electronically monitored. His Internet usage and religious instruction will also be tracked.

Al Awda's lawyer told the military review board his client wants to get married and start a family.

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