- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

The first of 12 Kuwaiti detainees held for more than three years at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was returned yesterday to his home country, where he was being questioned by security officials.

Nasser al-Mutairi, 28, arrived just after midnight on a Kuwaiti government jet, Kahlid al-Odah told United Press International in a telephone interview. Mr. al-Odah, the chairman of a group representing the detainees’ families, and al-Mutairi’s brother Naif were there to meet him.

“He was happy, but exhausted,” said Mr. al-Odah, adding that the freed detainee was lucid, though weak and somewhat unsteady on his feet. “He was so skinny, when I hugged him I could count his ribs.”

After a brief reunion with his brother, al-Mutairi was escorted away by security officials. “They are questioning him,” Mr. al-Odah said. “They want to clear up why he was [in Afghanistan], and what he was doing there.

“They also want to know what’s happening at Guantanamo Bay.”

Some 550 detainees, most captured in Afghanistan during the U.S. military action to overthrow the Taliban regime there, are being held in a specially built prison at the naval base. Defined by the U.S. government as “unlawful combatants,” the men have been held without charge or trial and have been interrogated by the U.S. military.

A statement from the Pentagon yesterday said al-Mutairi was being transferred to Kuwait “for prosecution,” but his U.S. attorney, Tom Wilner, said he doubted that any further action would be taken.

“I’m confident that if there was any information to charge him with, they’d have tried him [in Guantanamo],” Mr. Wilner said.

The United States had planned to try some of the detainees before military commissions, but the process collapsed in November after a federal court ruled that the commissions did not meet the requirements of the Geneva Conventions or basic constitutional guarantees for fair trials.

Under Kuwaiti law, Mr. al-Odah said, authorities could hold someone for four days, but must then release or charge him. “We are trying to find out what the view of the [Kuwaiti] government is on this case,” he said.

Mr. al-Odah said that the release was the result of lobbying by the families and pressure from the Kuwaiti government, which has sent two security delegations to Guantanamo to ascertain the facts about the 12 detainees from Kuwait.

Mr. al-Odah’s group, the Kuwaiti Families Committee, says that the men are innocent of any wrongdoing and have called for them to be charged or released.

“These men would welcome their day in court,” Mr. Wilner said. “They want the opportunity to hear the case against them and to defend themselves.”

Mr. al-Odah said al-Mutairi had been doing missionary work — “teaching the Koran and Islamic principles” — to refugee children on the Afghan-Pakistan border when he was captured.

“We don’t know exactly what happened to him,” he said, but added that Afghan tribesmen had seized many foreigners in the area, because the U.S. military was paying a bounty to anyone who brought them foreign fighters.

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