US releases Guantanamo prisoner to Saudi Arabia

An April 8, 2014 file photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military shows a detainee and some belongings at "Camp 6" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A Saudi Arabian inmate at the US prison in
An April 8, 2014 file photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military shows a detainee and some belongings at "Camp 6" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A Saudi Arabian inmate at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was repatriated on Nov 22, 2014, leaving 142 prisoners still at the jail President Barack Obama has pledged to close, the Pentagon said. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A Saudi inmate held for 12 years at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of fighting in Afghanistan for Al-Qaeda has been transferred to Saudi Arabia, the US Defence Department said on Saturday.

Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani was cleared for transfer last month by a review board, which said it took into account the uncorroborated nature of the information about his links to Al-Qaeda as well as his expressions of regret.

Zahrani, who will take part in a Saudi rehabilitation programme, was imprisoned at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo in August 2002.

A Defence Department profile said Zahrani was 44 or 45 years old.

Six other prisoners have been transferred from Guantanamo in the past three weeks, including three to Georgia, two to Slovakia and one to Kuwait.

There are 142 inmates remaining at the facility, the Defence Department said.

President Barack Obama promised to shut the detainee camp down during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the US reputation around the world.

But Obama has so far been unable to do so, in part because of resistance from Congress.

The New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, which has represented some of the Guantanamo prisoners, on Saturday welcomed the flurry of releases in recent weeks and said Obama should transfer the remaining men who he does not intend to charge criminally.