Freed Gitmo Prisoner Refuses to Leave

Lawyer says Yemeni man is too 'frightened' to leave the familiarity of Guantanamo
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2016 7:27 AM CST
Freed Gitmo Prisoner Refuses to Leave
In this March 30, 2010, file photo, the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is shown.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

A Guantanamo Bay inmate who remained in the prison for nearly 14 years finally had his shot at freedom this week—and he turned it down. While two other Gitmo prisoners boarded a plane out of Cuba Wednesday morning, Yemen native Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir—who Fox News says is 35 or 36 and had past ties to both al-Qaeda and the Taliban—was depressed and too "frightened" to leave the familiarity of Guantanamo and be sent to a country were he knew no one, his lawyer, John Chandler, tells the New York Times. "I cannot discuss the details of Mr. Bwazir's decision other than to say that, yes, he declined to accept an offer for resettlement in a third country," the chief of staff for the State Department office looking to close Gitmo tells the Times. Bwazir had indicated as late as Tuesday night that he'd leave the prison, but he changed his mind, and now that chance is gone, Chandler tells the Times.

In recent phone conversations he had had with Chandler, Bwazir said he hoped to be sent somewhere like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or even Indonesia because he had family in those places; the country he was to be sent to has not been revealed. "Can you imagine being there for 14 years and going to a plane where you could finally leave, and saying, 'No, take me back to my cell?'" Chandler tells the Times. "This is one of the saddest days of my life." The other two prisoners—an Egyptian and a Yemeni—who actually got on the plane to freedom were resettled in Bosnia and Montenegro, respectively. The "strange twist" involving the third prisoner, as the Miami Herald describes it, makes it all but impossible for the Obama administration to downsize the Gitmo population to 90 this month as it hoped. (One inmate has served 13 years in part because of confusion over his name.)

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