Kuwaiti Guantanamo detainee sent home after 13 years: US official

A seated detainee wearing restraints as he reads during a life skills class inside Camp VI at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on March 30, 2010. One of two remaining Kuwaitis held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay was sent home on Wednesday
A seated detainee wearing restraints as he reads during a life skills class inside Camp VI at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on March 30, 2010. One of two remaining Kuwaitis held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay was sent home on Wednesday after nearly 13 years in detention, a Pentagon spokesman told AFP. -- PHOTO: AFP

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AFP) - One of two remaining Kuwaitis held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay was sent home Wednesday after nearly 13 years in detention, a Pentagon spokesman told AFP.

Fawzi al-Odah, 37, boarded a Kuwaiti government plane at 5:30 am (6:30pm Singapore time), said Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins.

He is the first inmate freed since late May, bringing the total number of detainees at the prison on a US naval base in Cuba to 148.

"In accordance with statutory requirements, the Secretary of Defence informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer this individual," Caggins said in a statement.

Al Odah's "transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures," in cooperation with the Kuwaiti government, he added.

The release comes a day after a major election defeat for US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, who blames Congress for blocking his attempts to close the controversial jail. Republicans will now control both congressional chambers, for the first time since 2006.

Al-Odah and fellow Kuwaiti Guantanamo detainee Fayez Al Kandari were arrested in northern Pakistan in late 2001 by tribesmen who sold them to the Pakistani army, who in turn handed them over to the United States.

At a hearing in July, Guantanamo's Periodic Review Board "determined that continued law of war detention of (al-Odah) does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."

But the review board has recommended against releasing fellow Kuwaiti Al Kandari, ruling he "almost certainly retains an extremist mindset and had close ties with high-level Al-Qaeda leaders in the past."

The last prisoners released from Guantanamo, in May, were five Taleban detainees, in exchange for the return of US Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years in Afghanistan.

The move, which Obama did by bypassing Congress, sparked loud complaints from Republicans, who considered it a bad and dangerous deal.

Opened in 2002, the prison has housed 779 inmates detained in connection with the US war on terror, many of whom were subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.