Saudi prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay after 12 years

A Saudi inmate held for 12 years at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of fighting in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, has been transferred to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. 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 Qaeda as well as his expressions of regret. Zahrani, who will take part in a Saudi rehabilitation program, was imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo in August 2002.

[Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani is a] middle-aged, ailing man who desperately wants to return to Saudi Arabia … His only wish is to see his ailing mother before she passes away.

A statement from Al-Zahrani’s lawyers

President Barack Obama promised to shut the detainee camp down during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the U.S. 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 whom he does not intend to charge criminally.