Saudi prisoner released from Gitmo
A Saudi citizen held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp is being returned to Saudi Arabia to enter a government-sponsored terrorist rehab program.
Muhammad al-Zahrani becomes the sixth Gitmo prisoner transferred in the last few days. Five other terrorists were sent to Georgia and Slovakia.
Al-Zahrani, who is about 45, had been held at Guantanamo since August 2002, according to military records. A report by the Periodic Review Board said he traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 and "almost certainly" joined al Qaeda, trained in military tactics and fought the Northern Alliance.
His lawyers, in a statement to the board, described him as a "middle-aged, ailing man who desperately wants to return to Saudi Arabia."
They said his father died while he was in U.S. custody and "his only wish is to see his ailing mother before she passes away."
Where's the world's smallest violin when you need it?
The board cleared him for release in October, citing a number of factors including his willingness to participate in the Saudi rehabilitation program. He left Guantanamo on Friday.
Al-Zahrani is the 13th prisoner to leave Guantanamo Bay this year and the seventh in just the past two weeks. Officials have said more prisoners will be released in the coming weeks as part of a renewed effort to close the site. Seventy three are already cleared for release.
Of the five prisoners releases earlier this week, three were sent to Georgia and two to Slovakia for resettlement.
The prisoners -- four Yemenis and a Tunisian -- also were among dozens of low-level prisoners at Guantanamo that an administration task force in 2009 deemed to no longer pose a threat. There are now about 100 fewer detainees at the facility, compared to when President Obama took office roughly six years ago.
This 12 step program for terrorists has been in operation for 10 years and the Saudis claim the recidivism rate is "less than 10%." One facility appears to be a club med for "recovering" terrorists:
In between sessions with counselors and talks on religion, prisoners will be able to relax in the center's facilities which include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a sauna, gym and a television hall.
Another center has already opened in the western port city of Jeddah, and three more are planned for the north, east and south of the desert kingdom. The new facility in Riyadh, however, is the first to offer inmates a taste of luxury as an incentive to moderate their beliefs.
The new complex is the work of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, a body set up seven years ago to rehabilitate extremists jailed during a Saudi crackdown on the local branch of al-Qaeda.
"Just under 3,000 (Islamist prisoners) will have to go through one of these centers before they can be released," interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP during a tour of the new center.
I find it a dubious proposition that Wahabbi Muslims are "moderating" the views of extremists. Something of an oxymoron, yes?
How the administration figured out that al-Zahrani is "no longer a threat" is a mystery. Did he whine about wanting to go home and see his mommy? Are these terrorists to be believed when they swear they will no longer carry out jihad against westerners?
It's almost certainly an inexact process - more like a hope and a prayer that the released terrorists will not go back to their old ways. But Obama promised to close Gitmo so making history once again takes precedent over the security of the American people.