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Four Prisoners Released From Guantánamo, Sent to Albania and Spain

All four were cleared for release under Bush, but they could not be repatriated because of fears that they would be tortured if returned to their home countries.

On Wednesday, four prisoners were released from Guantánamo: an Egyptian, a Libyan and a Tunisian arrived in Albania, and a Palestinian arrived in Spain. All four had been cleared by military review boards at Guantánamo under the Bush administration, and had then been cleared by President Obama's interagency Task Force, but, like dozens of prisoners in Guantánamo, they could not be repatriated because of fears that they would be tortured if returned to their home countries or subjected to other ill-treatment, or because they were effectively stateless.

The Spanish government, which declared last week that it would take up to five cleared prisoners from Guantánamo, announced that the first of these men arrived in Spain on Wednesday. The Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters that the man is Palestinian, but would not give his name, citing privacy concerns. According to the press agency dpa, Rubalcaba explained that he "would get a residence permit, the possibility to work and freedom of movement in Spain, though Guantánamo prisoners taken by European countries could not leave those countries." He added that Spain would only accept prisoners "with no criminal charges in the European Union, the United States or their countries of origin."

As well as accepting the Palestinian, the newspaper Periódico reported that other prisoners, "believed to include a Syrian and a Yemeni citizen," were "expected to arrive in Spain shortly," adding that they will be "placed in different locations under the care of NGOs," and will also be "placed under surveillance not only to protect the Spanish public, but also to protect the individuals from al-Qaeda reprisals over their possible revelations to U.S. intelligence services."

Cementing its role as America's closest ally when it comes to clearing up "the mess" that is Guantánamo (to quote President Obama's words from last May), the Albanian Ministry of Interior announced on Wednesday that it had accepted three cleared prisoners, who could not be repatriated because of the fears outlined above. Albania has now taken 14 cleared prisoners from Guantánamo, having accepted eight in 2006, when no other country in the world was prepared to do so ( five Uighurs, an Algerian, an Egyptian and an ethnic Uzbek from the former Soviet Union).

Announcing the arrival of three prisoners in Albania, the Ministry of the Interior stated, "This transfer is a result of the engagement of the Albanian government in backing the Obama administration’s policy to close the detention center in Guantánamo and transfer prisoners to friendly and safe third countries." In a press release, the U.S. Justice Department identified the three men as: Abdul Rauf Omar Mohammad Abu al-Qusin, a Libyan; Sharif Fati Ali al-Mishad, an Egyptian; and Saleh bin Hadi Asasi, a Tunisian.

Their stories, like those of the majority of the 584 prisoners released from Guantánamo, demonstrate, yet again, that, behind the blustering rhetoric of former Vice President Dick Cheney and his swarming acolytes, the majority of the men held at Guantánamo had no involvement with terrorism, and that a disturbingly large number of them were innocent men seized by mistake.

Of the three men rehoused in Albania, for example, one was a businessman, living in Europe, who had traveled to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid, one was a veteran of Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union, who had married an Afghan woman, and was seized in a house in Lahore, Pakistan, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, and the other man, as was common in 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, had been persuaded to travel to Afghanistan to help the Taliban defeat their enemies, the Northern Alliance, in a long-running civil war that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism, and had not raised a finger against U.S. forces.