Former Gitmo detainee to be freed from rehabilitation camp soon

Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair, who had been in custody at the infamous American prison for the last seven years without trial for his alleged involvement in terror acts including the killing of an American in Bosnia, was extradited to the Kingdom in June last year. The 45-year-old had to be force-fed after he started a hunger strike in 2005 to protest against his captivity and conditions.
However, Zuhair’s possible release was neither confirmed nor denied by Ministry of Interior spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki on Wednesday when Arab News contacted him. “The man is still at the rehabilitation center in the Kingdom and under our care. Zuhair is one of four former Guantanamo Bay inmates if I am not mistaken,” he said.
Zuhair, who is considered a dangerous terrorist by US officials, was arrested in the Pakistani city of Lahore and handed over to American representatives in Afghanistan in June 2002. According to one newspaper report, Zuhair is waiting to be reunited with his three wives and 10 children soon. The same story claimed he was a former religious deviant who, having learnt the true meaning of Islam, was rehabilitated. Zuhair continues to maintain his innocence, claiming he had only been doing relief work in Bosnia and Pakistan prior to his arrest in 2002, when Pakistani officials allegedly robbed and tortured him before handing him over to the Americans.
He was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program had taught him good Muslims should not put themselves in suspicious situations or places. The report also quoted unnamed Saudi officials last week as claiming that if all goes according to plan, Zuhair may soon be freed.
The rehabilitation program, where Zuhair had undergone counseling, had been widely praised by American and foreign counterterrorism officials until 11 of its graduates, nearly half of them former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, rejoined terror cells.
Saudi Ministry of Interior officials who had developed the program defended it in interviews last week, saying they had already taken steps to correct flaws including how they evaluate prisoners before they are released. Saudi Arabia’s approach to de-radicalization relies heavily on Islamic education or re-education, psychological counseling and family support.
The Kingdom also provides support to rehabilitees by helping them find wives, jobs,and car to enable them achieve social stability.
In a related development, a US judge has dealt a setback to the families of two other Guantanamo Bay detainees involved in a lawsuit that alleges former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, US military officers and medical personnel were responsible for the detainees’ deaths. On Tuesday, US District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled the case alleging the unlawful treatment of former prisoners Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami could not be pursued due to the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami were among three men who allegedly committed suicide on June 9, 2006 at Guantanamo Bay. The families of the dead men do not believe the official explanation and have been seeking damages since then.

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