Uruguay: No more Guantanamo inmates


Uruguay: No more Guantanamo inmates -->

Authors: TheIndianSubcontinent News Agency

Uruguay: No more Guantanamo inmates --> Abu Wael Dhiab went to Argentina in February to campaign for the release of all Guantanamo detainees

The new Uruguayan government says it will no longer grant asylum to prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

In December, Uruguay gave sanctuary to six Arab men who had been held at the US base in Cuba for 12 years.

Opinion polls said most Uruguayans rejected the decision taken by outgoing President Jose Mujica.

Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa also said Uruguay would stop taking refugees from the Syrian conflict.

Were it not for Uruguay, I would still be in the black hole in Cuba todayAbdelhadi Faraj, Former Guantanamo detainee

Decisions on accepting new refugees from Syria will be put on hold "just until the end of the year," Mr Nin Novoa said.

Uruguay has faced "cultural and infrastructure" problems to deal with the Syrian families, he explained.

Local media has reported several alleged incidents of domestic violence involving Syrian refugees.

'Clearly struggling'

The six former inmates are Abu Wael Dhiab, Ali Husain Shaaban, Ahmed Adnan Ajuri, and Abdelhadi Faraj from Syria; Palestinian Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, and Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi from Tunisia.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said they had been subjected to "an atrocious kidnapping".

They spent 12 years in jail for alleged ties with al-Qaeda but were never charged.

Uruguay: No more Guantanamo inmates --> Five of the former detainees in the apartment they share in Montevideo: Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, Ali Husain Shaaban, Abdelhadi Faraj, Ahmed Adnan Ajuri and Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan Uruguay: No more Guantanamo inmates --> Abdelhadi Faraj says they are still dealing with serious health issues

The new foreign minister, Mr Nin Novoa, did not elaborated on the change of policy towards Guantanamo detainees.

But Mr Mujica said that the six Arab refugees were struggling to adapt to life in the South American nation.

"They are clearly struggling with the [Spanish] language," said Mr Mujica after paying a visit to the six man in February.

"They've had problems adapting here, not only because they come from different cultures but also because they bear the scars of living for so many years in isolation and in inhospitable conditions."

'Black hole'

In Latin America, El Salvador is the only other country to have given Guantanamo prisoners sanctuary, taking two in 2012.

One of the former detainees, Abdelhadi Faraj, published an open letter through his lawyer in New York thanking Mr Mujica for his decision.

Guantanamo, Nov 2013 --> Guantanamo began receiving prisoners from the United States's "war on terror" in 2002

"Were it not for Uruguay, I would still be in the black hole in Cuba today," he said.

More than 120 detainees remain in the US-run prison.

Mr Mujica, a former guerrilla leader who spent time in jail during Uruguayan military rule, offered asylum as "a humanitarian gesture".

He was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election and managed to elect his successor, Tabare Vazquez, who took office on 1 March.

But there is no guarantee that the policies from the past five years, including the legalisation of cannabis, will remain unchanged.