Kuwaiti released from Gitmo
MIAMI — One of the longest-held prisoners at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay was sent home to Kuwait on Wednesday, the first release based on the determination of a review panel that has been re-evaluating some men once classified as too dangerous to release.
Fawzi al-Odah had been told his release was imminent but didn’t know the date until shortly before he boarded the flight back to his country from the base in southeast Cuba, his lawyer, Eric Lewis, said.
The 37-year-old al-Odah had been the focus of an arduous battle to secure his release that had the support of his government.
Lewis, who spoke to him about a week before the departure, said the prisoner just wanted to get on with life.
“There’s no bitterness, there’s no anger,” Lewis said. “There’s just excitement and joy that he will be going home.”
Al-Odah faces a minimum of one year at a militant-rehabilitation center on the grounds of a Kuwaiti prison under the transfer agreement.
Lewis said that after six months al-Odah will be eligible to leave for part of the day to work or see family.
His transfer is the first since May, when President Obama angered Congress by trading five Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying lawmakers.
Al-Odah had been at Guantanamo since February 2002, one of the first prisoners brought to the base on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. The Obama administration has pledged to keep trying to close the facility, which opened in January 2002, and additional releases are expected in the coming months, so al-Odah’s record as the longest-held detainee to be released isn’t likely to stand long.
His father, Khalid al-Odah, said in several interviews with The Associated Press over the years that his son had been turned over for a bounty.
“Sometimes my wife calls my other son Fawzi. Other times I wake up in the middle of the night and find her sleeping in Fawzi’s room,” the father said in a 2005 interview.
The Kuwaiti government hired high-profile lawyers and lobbyists to push for the release of a dozen of its citizens at Guantanamo, an effort set back when one carried out a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in April 2008.
An Obama administration task force charged with evaluating all prisoners at Guantanamo placed al-Odah and another Kuwaiti among a group slated for indefinite “law of war detention.”
The men in this group can’t be prosecuted, typically because there is not enough evidence, but the government considers them too dangerous to release.