Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner freed after 14 years without charge

Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner freed after 14 years without charge
A Yemeni man suspected by US authorities of being an al-Qaeda militant has been released from the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison after 14 years' detention, the Pentagon has said.
2 min read
05 December, 2016
A total of 59 prisoners remain at Guantamano Bay [Getty]

A Yemeni prisoner at Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been released after being held for 14 years without charge.

The US military has sent Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, 35, to resettle in the West African country of Cape Verde, downsizing the controversial detention centre to 59 captives, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

Since the 9/11 attacks, about 780 inmates have been jailed in the US military-run facility.

Balzuhair has been held at Guantanamo as Detainee 838 since 2002, when he was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda militant.

"Shawqi is a private man who seeks anonymity upon his release," said his attorney Angela Viramontes, a federal public defender in California.

"He looks forward to having a wife, children, and a job, the experiences most young men hope for that Shawqi has yet to experience."

A US government review board determined in July that he was a "low-level militant" and approved his release.

Prisoners are not sent back to Yemen due to the ongoing civil war and powerful al-Qaeda franchise.

Balzuhair is the second Guantanamo captive taken in by the former Portuguese colony for the Obama administration, which has worked toward winding down the facility, notorious for its practise of detaining people without charge.

Meanwhile incoming president Donald Trump has promised to keep it running, reportedly saying at a campaign rally in February, "We are keeping it open ... and we're gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we're gonna load it up".

There are now 20 captives cleared for release, ten are charged with war crimes and 29 are "forever prisoners", long-held captives considered too dangerous to release but ineligible for war crimes trial.

At the White House on Wednesday, press secretary Josh Earnest said work was underway for transfers "that will continue at least through January 20," Obama's last day in office.

"We're going to continue to do the difficult, diplomatic spade work that's necessary to transfer as many of those detainees as possible that have been cleared for transfer by the national security experts who are viewing their case files," he said.

"After that, the President-elect's team will have to decide how they want to handle the situation."