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Estonia accepts Guantanamo prisoner

Ahmed Abdul Qader PHOTO: New York Times

On the basis of a decision of the Estonian government from Oct. 9 last year to grant a request of the United States government, a Yemeni national released from the detention center at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrived in Estonia on Wednesday afternoon.

By this step Estonia supports the aspiration of the United States to close the Guantanamo detention center, spokespeople for the Estonian government said. The person who arrived in Estonia has not been convicted of an offense and the person's arrival happened of his own free will, the person wishes to stay here and has filed an application for asylum.

According to a Pentagon statement carried by AFP the name of the Yemeni transfered to Estonia is Akhmed Abdul Qadir.

Persons released from Guantanamo often cannot return to their native country because of the big risk this would pose to their security.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that five men from Yemen have been released from Guantanamo after more than a dozen years of captivity. It said one man has been sent to Estonia and four to Oman. This is the first time either nation has agreed to accept former Guantanamo prisoners for resettlement.

All five were captured in Pakistan and detained by the U.S. as suspected al-Qaida fighters. U.S. officials determined it was no longer necessary to detain them but decided they couldn't be sent to Yemen because of instability there, the Pentagon said. Officials said "a comprehensive review" of the cases was conducted by several U.S. agencies before the men were moved and that all were "unanimously approved for transfer."

The transfer of the five men leaves 122 inmates at the remote prison, which is located at a U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba.

It is the first prisoner transfer of the year, after a total 28 inmates were moved in 2014.

The prison was set up to hold alleged terror suspects after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but human rights groups have condemned the jail as a "legal black hole," where inmates languish for years without being tried in court.

The pace of transfers from the U.S.-run detention center has picked up in recent months as President Barack Obama attempts to fulfill his vow to shut the prison, despite opposition from some lawmakers, AFP said. The U.S. has been trying to find other countries to accept the Yemeni prisoners amid an effort to close the detention center.

The Estonian government wishes to ensure smooth adaptation for the person who arrived here so that he was able to manage on his own in the future. As applicant for international protection, he is entitled to social support services provided by the government.

To persons to whom international protection is granted a fixed-term residence permit will be issued for up to three years and they also get a residence permit card that serves as domestic ID proving the person's right to stay in the country. Also, in accordance with law, the person's subsistence will be supported, and after the issuance of a residence permit the person becomes eligible for the support services offered by the government and local governments. To ease adaptation, the person will be offered the possibility to learn Estonian and the possibility to be provided translation service in interaction with the authorities and providers of health care service.

Since 2009, 64 individuals have been released and transfered on various grounds from Guantanamo. For instance, three of the released inmates were transfered to Albania, one to Belgium, four to Bermuda, one to Bulgaria, one to Cape Verde, two to El Salvador, two to France, six to Georgia, two to Germany, one to Hungary, two to Ireland, five to Kazakhstan, one to Latvia, six to Palau, two to Portugal, five to Qater, eight to Slovakia, three to Spain, three to Switzerland and six to Uruguay.

In addition 44 people have been transfered to their native country, including to Italy and Britain.