RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, (AP) – Sixteen Saudi Arabians who were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay returned home on Thursday, the kingdom’s interior minister said.
The 16 arrived in the kingdom on a private Saudi plane and will be “subject to the Saudi system,” the interior minister said, without elaborating. It was not immediately known when they were released from Guantanamo.
“Their release was the outcome of efforts exerted by Saudi authorities,” Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz told Saudi’s official news agency.
The United States began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to hold people suspected of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Since May, about 44 Saudis, including the 16, have been released and sent home.
Some 759 people have been held over the years at Guantanamo, according to Defense Department documents released to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Of those, 136 have been Saudis, making them the second-largest contingent of Guantanamo prisoners, behind the 218 Afghans that have been held there.
The detention of Saudis at Guantanamo has been an irritant in the relationship between the Bush administration and the Saudi kingdom.