Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sami al-Hajj is free and in Sudan

SUNDAY, MAY 04, 2008
0:10 MECCA TIME, 21:10 GMT

Seized in 2001
He was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held as an "enemy combatant" without ever facing trial or charges. Al-Hajj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the US did not make public its full allegations against him.

Free man
The US embassy in Khartoum issued a brief statement confirming that a "detainee transfer" to Sudan had taken place and saying it appreciated Sudan's co-operation. Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, visited al-Hajj in hospital.

A senior US defence official in Washington speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that al-Hajj was "not being released [but] being transferred to the Sudanese government".

But, Sudan's justice minister told Al Jazeera that al-Hajj was a free man and would not be arrested or face any charges.

Two other Sudanese inmates at Guantanamo, Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, were freed along with al-Hajj. The two said they were blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to their seats during the flight home.

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