Guantánamo detainee refuses to leave

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WASHINGTON — Three Guantánamo detainees were slated to leave the US prison in Cuba this week after about 14 years in captivity. But early Wednesday morning, only two were willing to board the plane.

The third, Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir of Yemen, balked at the last minute, even though he has a history of hunger striking to protest his indefinite detention without trial. In recent days, Bwazir was "frightened" to leave the prison and go to a country where he has no family, his lawyer, John Chandler, said. The country has not been identified.

Chandler also said his client, who was born around 1980 and brought to Guantánamo in 2002, was depressed. He compared his client to a character in the prison movie "The Shawshank Redemption" who has spent so much of his life behind bars that he cannot handle life on the outside after finally being paroled.


"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 said. "This is one of the saddest days of my life."

Chandler said that he had spoken to Bwazir by phone repeatedly in recent weeks and that his client had said he wanted to go to a country where he had relatives like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, or Indonesia. Bwazir had reluctantly said he would go when they last spoke Tuesday night, his lawyer said, but apparently changed his mind. Chandler said he understood that the door was now closed on the opportunity.

Ian Moss, the chief of staff for the State Department's office of Guantánamo Bay closure, confirmed the incident but would not say which country had agreed to take in Bwazir or whether the department was negotiating with it to take someone else instead.


Earlier in the Obama administration, five Uighur detainees — Muslims from China — rejected offers to be resettled in Palau or the Maldives, spending several more years at Guantánamo before they were finally transferred to El Salvador and Slovakia.

On Wednesday, one of the two detainees who did board the plane was Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed al Sawah, who was born in Egypt and sent to Bosnia, where he is a dual citizen, according to a leaked dossier. The other detainee was Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ali al Suadi, a Yemeni who was resettled in Montenegro.