US releases Guantanamo detainee back to Mauritania

Mauritanian citizen held in Guantanamo Bay prison sent to home country after 14 years

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

American flag seen behind barbed wires at US military prison at Guantanamo Bay

The Pentagon on Thursday said it repatriated Guantanamo detainee, Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz (45) back to his homeland in Mauritania.

The release of Aziz, who was detained in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years, had been approved six years ago after the Guantanamo Review Task Force examined his case. However, he was continued to be kept inside the prison, with 53 other detainees cleared for release.

There are currently 113 people remaining in the much debated detention centre.

"The United States is grateful to the Government of Mauritania for its willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," wrote the statement.

The statement also noted that the US coordinated with Mauritania to ensure the transfer "took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."

There were no details in the statement on why and when Aziz was captured.

A rights watchdog and the government confirmed that Aziz reunited with his family at Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Thursday.

"Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz has been freed and was reunited with his family this morning, thank God," said the Mauritanian communications ministry.

Aziz’s Attorney, Clive Stafford Smith said that “while it’s great that Ahmed is home with his family, it’s 14 years late, and long after he was cleared,” he said. “His release was only delayed because he, an innocent man, routinely protested his mistreatment.”

Smith informed reporters that Aziz was married and has a 15-year-old son. He now plans to work as a copy editor at a family run newspaper in Mauritania. 

A Mauritanian government official speaking to the AFP on condition of anonymity said that the country will continue efforts to push for the release of its last citizen, Mohamedou Ould Slahi from the controversial prison. 

Slahi became well known after publishing his memoir “Guantanamo Diary” in 20 countries, where he spoke on his brutal treatment by Guantanamo officers who accused him of having ties with the September 11 attacks. 

Slahi, detained for 13 years, has never been officially charged and in 2010, a federal judge ordered for him to be released as he was unlawfully detained. 

The US government appealed for his release order, and his trial awaits reconsideration at the US District Court in Washington, DC.

US President Barack Obama during his presidential campaign and throughout his term in office,  has vowed several times to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The administration has recently increased efforts toward that end, transferring Guantanamo detainees to their home countries or two third countries. 

TRTWorld and agencies