MONTEVIDEO – One of six men released from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo, Cuba, and received in Uruguay as refugees pledged “good will” and “positive contributions” to the new country, according to a letter published Monday by Montevideo daily El Pais.
“I want to reassure all Uruguayans and their government that we will bring only good will and positive contributions to Uruguay while we learn Spanish and rebuild our lives here,” Abdelhadi Omar Faraj wrote in a letter that his U.S. lawyer, Ramzi Kasem, sent to the newspaper.
Four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian were transferred Sunday from the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba to Uruguay as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to close the controversial detention center.
An October poll found that 58 percent of Uruguayans were against receiving the Guantanamo prisoners, who their president, Jose Mujica, offered to take during his meeting with Obama in Washington earlier in the year.
“I am sure that many Uruguayans feel curiosity about me and the other men and that’s why I want to address this letter directly to the Uruguayan people with the same spirit of openness and friendship they have shown to us,” said Faraj, a 39-year-old Syrian.
Last Friday, in an open letter to Obama and the Uruguayan people, Mujica wrote: “We have offered hospitality to human beings suffering an atrocious abduction in Guantanamo.”
The Uruguayan leader said he extended the offer for “inescapable humanitarian reasons.”
Faraj wrote that he wanted to thank Mujica personally for his “act of solidarity” and the president’s pledge to treat him and the other former prisoners “like full human beings instead of acting as another jailer.”
Uruguay’s interior minister, Eduardo Bonomi, said the former detainees will not be under “any type of surveillance” by U.S. agencies.
“If not for Uruguay, I would remain even now in that black hole in Cuba,” Faraj wrote. “I am at a loss for words to express my gratitude for the immense trust the Uruguayan people have placed in us by opening your country’s doors.”
“For the past 12 years I have been known also as Prisoner No. 329 in Guantanamo,” he said. “The U.S. government imprisoned me in cruel conditions, without charges, due process or trial.”
Faraj recalled that in 2009 a team in the Obama administration including officials from the military, the FBI and the CIA reviewed his case and unanimously concluded that he should be released from Guantanamo.