Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair stands behind a soccer goal as he takes a break from an afternoon soccer game at a rehabilitation center for terror suspects in Saudi Arabia. Zuhair, soon to be released and sent home to his three wives and 10 children, is considered by U.S. counterterrorism officials to be a hardcore terrorist with American blood on his hands.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair greets officials at the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, a rehabilitation clinic for terror suspects in Saudi Arabia. Zuhair, 45, continues to proclaim his innocence, asserting that Pakistani officials robbed, tortured and "sold" him to American agents. He vowed in an interview to lead a tranquil life when he is released. "I don't want to leave Saudi Arabia anymore," he said. "And I don't want my children to do what I did."
Three inmates of the Center for Counseling and Care sit in a classroom receiving lessons on responsible decision making, part of a program meant to ward them away from Islamic extremism. Saudi officials say an overwhelming majority of veterans of the center -- roughly 80 percent -- have not returned to terrorism, a far better recidivism rate than at drug and prison rehabilitation programs in the West.
Inmates at the Mohammed bin Nayef rehabilitation center get some exercise during an afternoon soccer game that mixes prisoners and their guards. Counselors have begun using the games to assess an inmate's anger and aggression and to determine the extent to which he cooperates as part of a team with people he may regard as his jailers or "un-Islamic."
The front entrance of the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care. Government officials say the program's goal is to woo inmates away from violence, not necessarily to make them less fundamentalist in their beliefs. "You can be extreme on women -- for example, believe that women should not leave the house -- without resorting to violence against those who choose to do so," said the Ministry of Interior's spokesman.
Two Saudi officials walk down the sidewalk at a renovated 48,000-square-yard resort called "Lotus," now rebuilt as a rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation program has an annual budget between $40 and $50 million, and is viewed by the Interior Ministry as so successful that it plans to open five new counseling and care centers throughout the kingdom.
The entrance of the new counseling and care facility, set to open in two months. Only after a prisoner has served his full term is he transferred to this center, which serves as a halfway house between prison and the street. Inmates are offered a sports program that includes afternoon soccer games with fellow inmates and the center's counselors and guards, and are enrolled in art classes and are given lessons in history, religion and other topics.
Construction continues at the new rehabilitation facility, which will house the last and crucial stage of the Saudi government's multi-phase program to combat extremism until a permanent facility is built.
An inviting sight: pools and palm trees color the landscape of the Saudi resort-cum-anti-terror center, which will offer recovering inmates swimming pools and a jacuzzi, a soccer field and other sports facilities, a library and computer center, and villas for conjugal visits, which the program encourages.
Saudi officials survey the grounds at the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care.
Inmates at the rehabilitation center, who are called "beneficiaries," sleep four-to-a room in bungalow villas made of stucco and wood.
All of the four-bed bungalows used to house inmates are air-conditioned, and many have individual fireplaces to combat the desert's winter cold.
Doorways lead to the bungalow living quarters at the new rehabilitation center. Once inmates graduate from the program, they can receive stipends of between $900 and $1,000 a month for at least a year for their families. The government works to ensure that former prisoners have a car, a home and even a wife in order to encourage stability, officials say.
A former detainee at Guantanamo is set to join 302 other prisoners who have been set free by the Saudi government as part of a program meant to turn even hardened jihadists into peaceful, law-abiding Saudi citizens. FoxNews.com gained exclusive access to the kingdom's newest rehab center, a luxurious former resort that offers inmates pools, classes and afternoon soccer games as amenities in their conversion process.