- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Justice Department has agreed to release a U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant for more than two years, clearing the way for him to return to Saudi Arabia, officials said yesterday.

Under terms of the agreement, Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan where he was fighting alongside the Taliban in late 2001, must renounce his American citizenship but will not face any criminal charges.

Mr. Hamdi, born in Baton Rouge, La., and raised in Saudi Arabia, will be flown by the Defense Department to Saudi Arabia as soon as transportation can be arranged. He was being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Hamdi holds Saudi citizenship.

The agreement negotiated by Mr. Hamdi’s lawyer, federal public defender Frank Dunham Jr., and the Justice Department stipulates that Mr. Hamdi is forbidden from traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the United States.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the restrictions are meant to ensure Mr. Hamdi cannot again take up arms against the United States or its allies.

Mr. Corallo said Mr. Hamdi’s intelligence value had been exhausted, leading to the decision to release him.

The disposition of Mr. Hamdi’s case leaves the Bush administration holding one U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant in the war on terror: former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla. Padilla is suspected of plotting with other al Qaeda operatives to launch attacks inside the United States, including a plan to fill apartments in several cities with natural gas and detonate them.

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