- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

A U.S.-born Saudi man who was detained as an “enemy combatant” for nearly three years and won a landmark Supreme Court ruling against the Bush administration arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday as part of a deal with the Justice Department.

But parts of the deal, such as a ban on the man’s travel outside Saudi Arabia for five years, remained in question, with Saudi officials saying it would be hard to enforce them because no Saudi law has been broken.

Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was born in Baton Rouge, La., to Saudi parents, left the United States on Sunday, after a 10-day delay caused by Saudi displeasure with the deal.

“The United States has transferred Saudi Yaser Esam Hamdi from United States detention at the Charleston naval brig in South Carolina to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

“The United States appreciates the cooperation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in facilitating this transfer,” he said.

But in private, U.S. officials said the Saudi cooperation was reluctant at best.

The Saudi government was unhappy that the deal was reached without its knowledge and participation, and that it was told too little even after the fact, the officials said.

When it became clear that the initial Sept. 30 deadline for Mr. Hamdi’s deportation would not be met, the State Department began delicate negotiations with the Saudis.

As agreed, Mr. Hamdi yesterday renounced his American citizenship upon arrival in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

But the Saudi Interior Ministry said the state would not impose any restrictions on Mr. Hamdi unless he was found to have broken Saudi law.

“So far we have nothing against him, nothing to make us consider him a criminal,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Mr. Hamdi, 24, was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, during the U.S. campaign to oust the ruling Taliban militia, but was never formally charged. He was kept in solitary confinement and had no access to the legal system.

He brought his case before the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that U.S. citizens accused of being wartime combatants cannot be held indefinitely and should be able to defend themselves.

Mr. Hamdi, who has denied any association with the Taliban or Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, did not have his day in court, agreeing instead to the four-page deal, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk last month.

For 15 years after the expiration of his five-year ban on travel outside Saudi Arabia, he must notify the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh of plans to leave the country.

He also agreed not to visit the United States for 10 years and never to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan or Syria.

Mr. Hamdi also had to renounce terrorism and agree not to sue the United States over his imprisonment.


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