WASHINGTON — The United States has cleared the release of a Kuwaiti man held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than 12 years because of his suspected links to terrorism.
The U.S. Periodic Review Board, which is reviewing the cases of dozens of detainees held at the prison, ruled July 14 that Fawzi al-Odah no longer needed to be held for national security reasons. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel still must notify Congress of the U.S. intent to transfer al-Odah to Kuwaiti authorities.
In a statement on Friday, his attorney, Eric Lewis, praised Kuwaiti authorities for working with the U.S. on a post-release program, which includes keeping al-Odah in a rehabilitation center for at least a year.
“We are grateful to the board for clearing Fawzi for release and for the tremendous effort by the State of Kuwait, at its highest levels, to repatriate its citizens,” Lewis said.
Last fall, Kuwait’s ruler Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah asked President Barack Obama to speed the process of releasing al-Odah, one of two Kuwaiti prisoners still being held at Guantanamo. Obama wants to close the facility, which currently holds about 150 detainees.
Al-Odah had never been charged. Back in 2008, the Defense Department labeled him a high-risk detainee and recommended his continued detention. A department memo dated Jan. 2, 2008, said al-Odah was believed to be a member of al-Qaida who had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the group’s deceased leader. The detainee’s name was listed on al-Qaida affiliated documents, and he was a reported member of an al-Qaida cell in London. He also was believed to have participated in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces.
His lawyer said the 37-year-old al-Odah poses no threat to the U.S. and would seek to start a family and work in his father’s plumbing supply business once he is returned to his homeland.