Yemeni inmate of Guantanamo Bay cleared to leave after 14 years in prison, but chooses to stay

Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir had been due to be transferred on Wednesday (Jan 20), but changed his mind at the last minute.
Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir had been due to be transferred on Wednesday (Jan 20), but changed his mind at the last minute.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Yemeni prisoner who had been cleared to leave Guantanamo Bay after nearly 14 years has opted to stay in the military prison for now, a Pentagon spokesman said on Friday (Jan 22).

Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir had been due to be transferred on Wednesday, but changed his mind at the last minute, Lieutenant Commander Gary Ross said.

"We cannot discuss the details of a detainee's decision not to accept resettlement in a third country, other than to note that he declined to accept the offer for resettlement," he added.

The detainee remained on the Pentagon's list of men approved for transfer, and officials would continue trying to move him, according to Lt-Cmdr Ross.

"We are starting again with trying to negotiate with different countries to try to accept him," he said.

The Pentagon did not disclose to which country Bwazir had declined to go.

Bwazir's lawyer John Chandler told the Miami Herald that his client had become like a character in the prison movie "The Shawshank Redemption", who couldn't handle life outside of captivity.

"He's been in Guantanamo so long that he was terrified about going to a country other than one where he had family," Mr Chandler said.

A defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bwazir had wanted to go to an Arabic-speaking country.

According to his leaked prison files, Bwazir allegedly fought in Osama bin Laden's 55th Arab Brigade.

He had previously participated in hunger strikes to protest his lengthy imprisonment, the Herald reported.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced the transfer of another two inmates from Guantanamo Bay, bringing the facility's remaining population down to 91.

Of them, 34 have been approved for release. The rest face ongoing, indefinite detention.