Seven Saudis released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay returned home on Wednesday and were promptly detained to see if they had terrorist connections, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.Their return brings to 60 the number of Saudis freed from Guantanamo, according to The Associated Press’ own tally. Another 67 Saudis remain incarcerated at the U.S. military facility on Cuba, a source of tension in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Washington.
Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz expressed his “great joy” about the seven Saudis’ return and “appreciation of the cooperation by the American authorities,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
He added he hoped the remaining Saudi detainees in Guantanamo would return in the near future.
The seven who returned Wednesday were expected to remain in custody until the security authorities had determined whether they were linked to militant organizations.
Five batches of Saudis have returned from Guantanamo, the first arriving in May last year, and all have gone through the same process of being detained on arrival. The kingdom released 30 detainees in December.
Two Saudis died in Guantanamo prison last year in what American officials said were suicides. Many Saudis don’t believe that and think the detainees were abused — a claim the U.S. denies.
The United States began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in January 2002 for people captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan who were suspected of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Of the 759 people who have been held over the years at Guantanamo, according to Defense Department documents released to The Associated Press, 136 have been Saudis, making them the second- largest contingent of prisoners, behind Afghan nationals.