JEDDAH(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has freed 18 former Guantanamo Bay detainees after they completed their jail sentences, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
The men were among 28 Saudi nationals and one resident handed over this year by the United States from the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, it said. The Muslim kingdom had released 11 of the men earlier this month.
“The remainder, numbering 18 convicts, were freed … after the necessary conditions were fulfilled,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, quoting Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour bin Sultan al-Turki.
Saudi Arabia said it would continue efforts to secure the return of other Saudi citizens. It did not say how many Saudis remained in U.S. custody at the controversial prison camp.
Many of the men held at Guantanamo Bay were captured in Afghanistan in the U.S.-led war to oust the Taliban after the September 11 attacks. Many have been held for years and nearly all are being held without charge.
Most of the 19 suicide hijackers who carried out the attacks on U.S. cities in 2001 were Saudis.
Washington has designated Guantanamo prisoners “enemy combatants,” denying them the prisoner of war status that would guarantee them certain rights under international law.
Public anger over the treatment of Saudi detainees in Guantanamo, now holding around 395 prisoners, has been high in the Gulf Arab state, a key U.S. ally. Two Saudis were among three prisoners who hanged themselves in June at the prison.