- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

From combined dispatches
One of the 300 prisoners the U.S. military is holding in Cuba claims he was born in Louisiana to Saudi parents and is an American citizen, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday.
The claim, if true, could lead to his transfer from the Navy's Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to identify the prisoner, but last night ABC News named the man as Yaser Esam Hamdi.
According to the ABC report, Hamdi, 22, has been claiming U.S. citizenship for months, but it was only this week that authorities found a Baton Rouge, La., birth certificate in that name, dated Nov. 17, 1979.
"There is an individual among those detainees who has indicated that his place of birth is Baton Rouge," Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters news agency. "The Department of Justice has recently informed us they have uncovered what appears to be a corresponding birth certificate in Baton Rouge."
"Does that mean he's a U.S. citizen? That's a little difficult to answer right now,' Lt. Col. Stoneking said. "We need to certainly look into the matter in more detail."
Bryan Whitman, another Pentagon spokesman, said the prisoner told U.S. authorities that his parents were working in Louisiana at the time of his birth and that he accompanied them back to Saudi Arabia when he was a toddler.
The man was captured with the Taliban militia after a November prison uprising in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Mr. Whitman said. John Walker Lindh, the Californian who joined the Taliban, also was captured after that uprising, during which CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed.
Persons born in the United States automatically are American citizens. If the detainee's claim is true, he would be a U.S. citizen unless he had renounced or otherwise changed that citizenship.
The detention center at the base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not meant to hold U.S. citizens, military officials have said.
The Defense Department does not believe the man's claim would affect the military's right to hold him as a battlefield prisoner, but military officials are discussing the issue with the Justice Department, Mr. Whitman said.


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