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Ex-Guantanamo detainee leaves Uruguay, heads to Turkey

July 24, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, former Guantanamo detainee Syrian Abu Wa'el Dhiab listens to a question as he holds a press conference at his apartment in Montevideo, Uruguay. Dhiab, who has been unhappy with resettlement in Uruguay, has once again left the South American nation. The Uruguayan government liaison for six resettled ex-prisoners said Tuesday, July 24, 2018, that Dhiab went to Turkey in late June, but that it’s unclear if the Syrian native is still in Turkey or if he was deported. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — A former Guantanamo detainee who has been unhappy with resettlement in Uruguay has once again left the South American nation, an official said Tuesday.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab went to Turkey in late June, said Christian Mirza, the government’s liaison with six ex-Guantanamo Bay inmates resettled in Uruguay. Mirza said that it’s unclear if the Syrian native is still in Turkey or if he was deported.

“Some reports say that he was deported to Syria, but I haven’t been able to confirm that,” Mirza told The Associated Press.

Immigration authorities have no record of when or how Dhiab left Uruguay, leading authorities to believe he slipped across the border to Brazil before he traveled to Turkey, Mirza said. If he was deported to Syria, “it would be in violation of the refugee status,” he said.

Uruguay took Dhiab in along with five other former prisoners at the U.S. detention center for terror suspects in 2014. But he has expressed unhappiness about being in Uruguay and has gone on hunger strikes demanding he be allowed to leave and meet with his family abroad.

The Uruguayan government has said Dhiab is free to travel, but it cannot force another country to take him.

Last year, Dhiab returned to Uruguay after being deported from Morocco, where he had arrived with a false passport. He also tried to board a flight to Russia but was turned away because he lacked an entry visa.

In 2016, he attempted to enter South Africa. Earlier that year, he also went missing for weeks before turning up in Venezuela. Officials say Turkey, Lebanon and Qatar have rejected taking in Dhiab.

In recent months, Dhiab had reportedly left his home in the Uruguayan capital and had been living in a northern city along the border with Brazil that is home to a Middle Eastern community.

“He communicated with few people,” said Dhiab’s lawyer, Juan Segura.

The Syrian was detained as an enemy combatant with suspected ties to militants and was held for 12 years at Guantanamo, but he was never charged. He drew international attention by staging a lengthy hunger strike and frequently clashing with guards. The hunger strikes and forced feedings at Guantanamo left him with health problems, and he walks using crutches.

Mirza said that he sent a message to Dhiab. But “I don’t even know if he took his cellphone and has coverage,” he said. “It’s like tossing a bottle with a message into the ocean.”

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