Pentagon sends Guantánamo captives to Albania


Posted on Fri, Nov. 17, 2006

The Pentagon says it has sent three more Guantánamo captives to Albania for resettlement as refugees -- men from Algeria, Egypt and the former Soviet Union -- whom the military had concluded weren't enemy combatants.

The Bush administration had previously negotiated the transfer of five Chinese citizens from the persecuted Uighur Muslim minority to Albania -- a poor, war-torn but predominantly Muslim nation.

A brief Defense Department statement this evening disclosed the transfer, describing the former Soviet citizen as an Uzbek.

It provided no names and no additional details about why the men were taken to the remote detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in the first place.

Most of the 430 or so detainees at the base have been there since 2002, brought in a series of airlifts from Afghanistan for interrogation, detention and in some instances future war-crimes trials.

Civilian attorneys and court documents have identified the three non-enemy combatants at Guantánamo as Zakerjain Hassan, 32, the Uzbek; Fethi Boucetta, 43, the Algerian who had lived in Pakistan for some time, and a 39-year-old Egyptian who had said, if sent home, he feared being tortured because he had been held at Guantánamo.

All three men were notified that review boards had cleared them of ''enemy combatant'' status in May 2005 -- and had been held apart from the wider detainee population at Guantánamo in a remote compound overlooking the Caribbean, called Camp Iguana.

''The United States has done the utmost to ensure that these three detainees will be treated humanely upon release,'' a Pentagon statement said.

``Our key objective has been to resettle these detainees in an environment that will permit them to rebuild their lives. Albania will provide this opportunity.''

Attorneys for the Uighurs who had been sent to Albania in May protested that the United States had not found a more suitable country to receive them.