World

From Guantanamo to Montevideo – What's next for the six prisoners-turned-refugees?

Two military leave the military hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

Two military leave the military hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.  (ap)

The six former Guantanamo prisoners now living as refugees in Uruguay were released from the Military Hospital Thursday and will be spending their first night in a private home rented for them in Montevideo.

The exact location of the place is not being disclosed by the government for security reasons.

According to El Pais, a local newspaper, the refugees will live together in the three-bedroom home for at least four months – courtesy of PIT-CNT, the main workers union in the country.

"It's a house that we can provide to them for a while. It's not big enough for six people. And when their families start coming it will not be good anymore. The goal is for them to be introduced into society and live as free men when their families come, be able to work," said Edgardo Oyenart, human rights secretary of the union.

Among other things, the refugees will receive Spanish classes and assistance in adjusting to their new country.

"They will be taught many things: the language, the streets, how to talk on the phone, how a supermarket works, how to board a bus. Just imagine, they have no family, no friends, they have no one here. And they come from spending 12 years in a hole!” National Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro told the Associated Press.

They will also have police protection 24/7 to ensure their safety.

“It's all been carefully planned by people who are specialized in this, he said. “It took months of study. "

Another newspaper, Subrayado, reported Thursday that the refugees had already received private jobs from various international organizations.

WHO ARE THEY?

According to Subrayado, when the refugees see the Uruguayan President Jose Mujica on TV they stop what they are doing and start cheering "Pepe! Pepe!" as a show of gratitude for his efforts in securing their release.

"For them (Mujica) is like God, he saved their life," an unnamed source told the publication.

This is who they are, according to information gathered by the Uruguayan media so far:

Mohammed Bin Abdul Ourgy: This 49-year-old Tunisian was first arrested in Italy in 1992 for drug trafficking. He is accused of being a member of al-Qaida and apparently had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as other planned suicide acts. He reportedly had associations with senior members of al-Qaida, including Osama bin Laden, according to Guantanamo files published by The New York Times.

After his release, he fell into the hands of the authorities at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He lost a thumb while using a grenade.

Abu Wa`el Dhiab: A Lebanese national who also holds the Syrian citizenship, was born to an Argentinian mother. Over the last few months, after his release kept being postponed by the U.S. government, he went on a hunger strike. His health condition was the most delicate of the six.

He used to be a truck driver for the Syrian Air Force and a street vendor in Saudi Arabia. In 2000, he moved to Pakistan, where two years later he was arrested in a raid. He is accused of being a member of a Syrian group and is an alleged al-Qaida associate who forged documents for the terrorist group.

Mohammed Tahamatan: This 35-year-old Palestinian was arrested during a raid to safe houses belonging to al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He is linked to the Palestinian group Hamas. According to his lawyer Lauren Carasik, Tahamatan decided to leave his country in 2001 to "escape violence and poverty." During his detention, Tahamatan said he hated "all enemies of Islam, including Americans, Jews, Christians and Muslims" who think like him. He is identified as "uncooperative and sometimes challenging."

Ali al Shabaan: At 32 years old, he is believed to have received training in handling AK-47s and fought in Afghanistan against the coalition. Citing a U.S. intelligence report, El Observador said the former suspect presents a "high risk” since he knew extensive details of Al-Qaida operations in Syria and Afghanistan.

Abd Hadi Faraj: Held in Guantanamo for the past 13 years, Faraj was arrested in December 2001 in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, at the age of 26. Of Syrian origin, he was linked to terrorist organizations in that country and is presumed to have been trained with firearms. He is considered a "high risk, as he may represent a threat to U.S. interests and allies." However, in regard to his general behavior, it is stated that he "was obedient and rarely hostile to the guards and staff," says the document quoted by El Observador.

Adnan Ahmed Ahjam: He was caught in late 2001 in Kabul, while trying to flee the military front Afghan Northern Alliance. According to information about his past, he was also in Tora Bora, and was trained in suicide operations. The 36-year-old grew up in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where his father owned a textile factory. While in Guantanamo he held several hunger strikes.

Uruguay already had taken in 42 Syrian civil war refugees, who arrived in October, and has said it will take about 80 more.

They are coming to what may be the only country in the Americas without an Islamic mosque, said Tamar Chaky, director of the Islamic Cultural Organization of Uruguay. He promised that the local Muslim community would welcome them.

The U.S. has now transferred 19 prisoners out of Guantanamo this year, and 136 remain, the lowest number since shortly after the prison opened in January 2002.

The U.S. now holds 67 men at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release or transfer but, like the six sent to Uruguay, can't go home because they might face persecution, a lack of security or some other reason.

This weekend's transfer was the largest group sent to the Western Hemisphere. Four Guantanamo prisoners were sent to Bermuda in 2009 and two were sent to El Salvador in 2012 but have since left.

The AP contributed to this report.

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter & Instagram