CAIRO – The Saudi government acknowledged Wednesday that 11 men on the country's most wanted list are former Guantanamo prisoners who went through rehabilitation, raising doubts about a program intended to counter extremist religious ideology.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order closing down the prison in Cuba on Jan. 22 — his second day in office — leaving nations scrambling over what to do with a potential flood of released detainees.
Some 133 of Guantanamo's over 700 inmates were Saudi, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour al-Turki, and 117 have returned to Saudi Arabia and been through rehabilitation programs.
"Besides the 11 people (on the list) who came from Guantanamo, there are still 106 people who have gone through this rehabilitation program and are doing okay," he told The Associated Press.
With a majority of the 9/11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia and hundreds of youths streaming into Iraq to join the insurgents, there has been a concerted government effort to counter with deprogramming sessions involving clerics, psychologists and sociologists.
It is in large part due to Saudi assurances of the effectiveness of these programs that most Saudis have been released from Guantanamo. Only 13 remain jailed there, according to al-Turki.
The Pentagon issued a report on Jan. 13, however, saying that increasing numbers of those released have rejoined militant organizations and carried out attack. Figures from December indicated that 61 former detainees had rejoined these movements, up from 37 in March.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia issued a wanted list of 83 Saudis and two Yemenis living outside of the country involved with Al Qaeda and requested Interpol's help in arresting them.
Obama's Jan. 21 decision to close down the prison has unleashed a debate in the U.S. and abroad about what to do with the remaining 245 inmates.
A narrow majority of Americans supports shutting down Guantanamo on a priority basis. But people are likely to become much less sympathetic to detainee rights if there is another terror attack inside the United States or if the new system is portrayed as too lenient on suspected Al Qaeda members.
The European Parliament said Wednesday EU nations should help the Obama administration and accept Guantanamo inmates.