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Feb 12, 2015 2:04 PM

Former Guantanamo detainee in Argentina, calls for asylum

The Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) A former Guantanamo detainee who was resettled in Uruguay has appeared in neighboring Argentina wearing a prison-style orange jumpsuit and asked the country to grant asylum for detainees still at the U.S. detention facility.

Abu Wa'el Dhiab told Barricada TV that he believed "the Argentine government could receive the prisoners at Guantanamo here in a humanitarian way." The 19-minute interview was published by several local websites on Thursday.

Speaking in Arabic with a Spanish translator, Dhiab said he would formally request asylum for other detainees, but did not elaborate. Calls to the Foreign Ministry and the office of President Cristina Fernandez seeking comment were not returned.

During the interview, shot on Wednesday, Dhiab recounted hunger strikes he participated in and criticized the U.S. government for not closing Guantanamo.

While at Guantanamo, Dhiab was at the center of a legal battle in U.S. courts over the military's use of force-feeding. When he arrived in Uruguay in December, he was reportedly weak as a result of repeated hunger strikes. In the video, Dhiab appears thin but not overly so.

The 46-year-old Syrian was one of six men who were released in December and resettled in Uruguay. It was unclear if Dhiab was still in Argentina or if he had returned to Uruguay. Calls to his lawyer were not immediately returned.

Since January 2002, when the detention center opened at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about 620 prisoners have been released or transferred, with the vast majority making no public statements or appearances.

A few have given interviews over the years, denouncing their treatment. Former prisoner Moazzam Begg, a British citizen released in 2005 after three years in custody, became a prominent activist campaigning against anti-terror tactics in his country and has made many speeches and public appearances over the years.

Orange jumpsuits, which are now worn only by prisoners on disciplinary status for breaking prison rules, have become a symbol of Guantanamo and are frequently worn by protesters campaigning for closure.

Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Defense, noted the use of the jumpsuits as propaganda in testimony before Congress on Feb. 5 as evidence that Guantanamo has damaged the reputation of the United States around the world. Specifically, McKeon mentioned the Islamic State, often referred to by the acronym ISIS.

"It is no coincidence that the recent ISIS videos showing the barbaric burning of a Jordanian pilot and the savage execution of a Japanese hostage each showed the victim clothed in an orange jumpsuit, believed by many to be the symbol of the Guantanamo detention facility," McKeon said.


Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this story from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.


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