U.S. sends Guantanamo prisoner back home to Kuwait

Associated Press

Miami — A citizen of Kuwait who has been held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 13 years was sent back to his homeland Wednesday, officials said.

Fawzi al-Odah was released under a transfer agreement with his country after a U.S. government review panel determined he no longer posed a threat, the Pentagon said in a statement.

His transfer brings the detention center population to 148 and is the first since May, when President Barack Obama angered Congress by trading five Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying lawmakers.

The 37-year-old al-Odah has been held without charge at the base in Cuba since February 2002, when he was among the first prisoners taken to Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

His father, Khalid al-Odah, said in several interviews with The Associated Press over the years that his son was only a teacher in Afghanistan who had been wrongly seized by bounty hunters and turned over to the U.S.

“Sometimes my wife calls my other son Fawzi. Other times I wake up in the middle of the night and find her sleeping in Fawzi’s room,” the father said in a 2005 interview. “It’s an unbearable sadness most of the time.”

The Periodic Review Board, created by the Obama administration to help achieve its goal of closing the detention center, concluded in July that al-Odah had most likely undergone terrorist training in Afghanistan and may have fought alongside the al-Qaida or the Taliban.

The board, however, determined that he had only a low level of training and did not have a leadership position in either group. He will be required to participate in a militant rehabilitation program in Kuwait.

There is one Kuwaiti remaining at Guantanamo.