U.S. drops charges against Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo

Reuters , Saturday 30 Jun 2012

The Pentagon drops war crimes charges against a Kuwaiti prisoner at Guantanamo Bay US military base in Cuba, and American & Kuwaiti officials says they are in talks to free two others who have been held for more than a decade

Guantanamo Bay US military base in Cuba. (Photo/ file: AFP)

The Pentagon dropped war crimes charges against a Kuwaiti prisoner at Guantanamo on Friday and a U.S. official said the United States and Kuwait were in talks about the possibility of repatriating the last two Kuwaitis held there.

Kuwait is a U.S. ally and the Gulf state's parliament has condemned the continued detention of its citizens, Faiz al Kandari and Fawazi al Odah, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military base in Cuba, where both have been held for more than a decade.

Kuwait's state news agency KUNA reported on Friday that a Kuwaiti delegation had held talks with U.S. officials seeking their return. It quoted Kuwait's ambassador to Washington, Salem Abdullah al-Jaber al-Sabah, as saying more talks were expected in the upcoming weeks.

A senior U.S. official confirmed that a Kuwaiti team had recently visited Washington to discuss the matter but suggested the talks would be long and challenging.

"There are a great number of obstacles and this will be a lengthy and difficult process," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We are aware that they want them back. Because of legal restrictions and our own view of these people, this will be a protracted and difficult process."

Guantanamo prosecutors charged Kandari in 2008 with conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism. They alleged he was an adviser to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, that he made al Qaeda recruiting tapes, and that he was an instructor at a training camp in Afghanistan from June to December 2001.

The charges were never referred for trial. The Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal, Retired Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald, dismissed them on Friday without explanation.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale, said the charges were filed under a 2006 law that was amended in 2009.

"Because of the changes to the applicable law, it is important that the prosecutors re-evaluate the case. At some future time, prosecutors may decide to re-charge him under the 2009 Act," he said.

Kandari, now 37, has denied ever meeting bin Laden or visiting any training camps and told an administrative review board at Guantanamo that he was in Afghanistan working for a charity.

Odah, 35, whose name appears in some Guantanamo documents as Fouzi al Awda, has never been charged with a crime.

U.S. military documents allege he was an al Qaeda and Taliban associate who carried an AK-47 and was captured by Pakistani authorities while trying to leave Afghanistan through the Tora Bora mountains in November 2001.

He told a Guantanamo review panel that he never knew anyone associated with al Qaeda, never fought against anyone and could never kill anyone because he was a "chicken."

Kandari and Odah both filed lawsuits in the U.S. District Court challenging their detention and lost. They are among 169 captives held at Guantanamo. Ten other Kuwaitis held there have already been sent home.

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