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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where Are The Sixteen So-Called Terror Captives?

***BY CAROL ROSENBERG

The Pentagon this weekend sent 16 long-held Guantánamo captives to Saudi Arabia, among them a man who more than a dozen times attempted suicide in the remote prison camps in southeast Cuba.
Jumah Dossari, 33, was among the best known so-called enemy combatants because his attorneys cast him as a symbol of desperation across five years of legal limbo in U.S. captivity.

In October 2005, lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan left Dossari for a bathroom break in his cell at Camp Echo in Cuba and some moments later saw his client hanging himself, blood streaming from a gash in his arm.

Guards took Dossari down and were able to save him -- unlike three other captives who were found hanging in their cells in June 2006 and whose deaths are still being investigated by the U.S. Navy.

In all, the Defense Department said Monday that it sent 16 captives to Saudi Arabia over the weekend as part of an ongoing process to thin the detainee population.

The Pentagon reported the Guantánamo captive population at ''approximately 360'' on Monday. That figure includes about 50 Saudis, down from a prison camps high of an estimated 136 Saudi citizens, the second largest concentration of captives after Afghanis.

Many were airlifted to Guantánamo in 2002 after their capture in Pakistan and Afghanistan as the U.S. sought to hunt down Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. Most of the hijackers were Saudi citizens.

The captives handed over to the Saudis last weekend were expected to be held while authorities investigate whether they had links to militant groups, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Six groups of Saudis have returned from Guantánamo, the first in May 2006, and all have been detained on arrival.

The transfer was among the largest off the remote Navy base -- and comes amid continuing calls by members of Congress to close the detention center.

The men were not immediately identified, but Colangelo-Bryan, who had filed Dossari's habeas corpus or unlawful detention lawsuit in U.S. District Court, reported his client among the returnees.

Although identified by U.S. officials as a Khobar, Saudi Arabia-born Bahraini citizen, attorneys said Dossari actually held dual citizenship -- and has a mother living in the oil-rich kingdom.

''Although we were somewhat surprised that he returned to Saudi rather than Bahrain, it is likely for the best, considering that most of his family is in Saudi,'' Colangelo-Bryan said by e-mail from his firm, Dorsey, Whitney, in New York City.

The firm has provided pro-bono or no-charge legal services to six Bahraini detainees at Guantánamo; all but one have been released, including a distant member of Bahrain's royal family.

To pursue the Dossari case, lawyers campaigned in Bahrain and at times cast him as a desperate, self-styled poet and released verses he wrote in the prison camps to prove it.

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