WASHINGTON - A Saudi inmate held for 12 years at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of fighting in Afghanistan for al-Qaida has been transferred to Saudi Arabia, the US Defense Department said on Saturday.
Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani was cleared for transfer last month by a review board, which said it took into account the uncorroborated nature of the information about his links to al-Qaida as well as his expressions of regret.
Zahrani, who will take part in a Saudi rehabilitation program, was imprisoned at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo in August 2002. A Defense Department profile said Zahrani was 44 or 45 years old.
Six other prisoners have been transferred from Guantanamo in the past three weeks, including three to Georgia, two to Slovakia and one to Kuwait. There are 142 inmates remaining at the facility, the Defense Department said.
President Barack Obama promised to shut the detainee camp down during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the US reputation around the world. But Obama has so far been unable to do so, in part because of resistance from Congress.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented some of the Guantanamo prisoners, on Saturday welcomed the flurry of releases in recent weeks and said Obama should transfer the remaining men who he does not intend to charge criminally.