Ex-Guantanamo prisoner slips into coma in Uruguay

Syrian Abu Wael Dhiab, who wants to be reunited with his family in Turkey, found unconscious in apartment in Montevideo.

Former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa''el Dhiab
Dhiab was held in Guantanamo for 12 years without charge [Reuters]

A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was resettled in Uruguay has slipped into a coma after a lengthy hunger strike in support of his demand to be reunited with his family in Turkey.

Abu Wael Dhiab, a 45-year-old Syrian, who had gone 12 days without water, was found unconscious on Wednesday by paramedics at his apartment in Montevideo.

“He is in a light coma, we are hydrating him, he was very dehydrated,” Dr Julia Galzerano, a physician who is part of the medical team taking care of Dhiab, told AFP news agency.

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She explained that the coma designation means that he “does not have a neurological problem” and has “almost normal vital signs.”

She said Dhiab would remain at his apartment for treatment in keeping with his wishes not to be taken to hospital during his protest.

Held in Guantanamo for 12 years without charge, Dhiab drew international attention by a hunger-strike during his confinement at the US military base in Cuba.

He was cleared for release in 2009 but was only finally freed in December 2014. He was not allowed to return to his native Syria and was instead resettled in Uruguay, along with five other freed detainees.

The ex-prisoner repeatedly expressed his desire to leave Uruguay and fled to Venezuela, seeking help to be reunited with his wife and daughters in Turkey, but was jailed at the headquarters of the secret police.

Since his return to Montevideo, Dhiab had reportedly grown frustrated with a Uruguayan government-appointed nongovernmental organisation that owed him three months of aid, Jorge Voituret, a friend said.

“He planned to use the money to buy a telephone and a stove. He is living in an apartment with no heating, and it gets really cold these days,” Voituret said about the southern hemisphere’s winter months.

READ MORE: Hunger striking for ‘dignity’ in Guantanamo

US President Barack Obama has promised repeatedly to close the prison, but it remains operational, with at least 61 prisoners still incarcerated there.

The prison is the focus of continued condemnation by human rights groups, with repeated calls by organisations such as Amnesty International, the UK-based human-rights organisation, to shut it down.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has pledged to fill Guantanamo with “bad dudes” should he win the White House.

Trump has said that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”, referring to a method of torture banned by the US government in 2007. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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