MIAMI: A Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo who waged a hunger strike for years to protest his confinement has been released from the U.S. base at Cuba, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Abdul Shalabi was sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he was expected to take part in a rehabilitation program for militants.
His release, the second this month, brings the prisoner population at Guantanamo to 114, including 52 who have been approved for transfer.
Shalabi, 39, was among the first prisoners brought to Guantanamo in January 2002. The U.S. said he had been a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden and an associate of other senior al-Qaida figures, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He was never charged with a crime.
A government review board, which includes military and intelligence officials, determined it was no longer necessary to detain him at Guantanamo, though it noted that he “probably continues to sympathize with extremists” in a statement.
His attorney, Julia Tarver Mason-Wood, told the review board in April that Shalabi was willing to take part in the Saudi rehabilitation program and hoped later to finish his university degree and work in his brothers’ construction or real estate businesses.
Shalabi began a hunger strike in 2005 to protest his confinement. He and another prisoner, who was released in June 2009, maintained the protest longer than any others held at the base. Court records show Shalabi occasionally consumed food but also dropped to as little as 101 pounds (46 kilograms). His lawyer told the review board in April that prison officials had fed him with a nasogastric tube daily for nine years to prevent him from starving to death.