Home | News    Thursday 16 August 2007

Guantamano inmate must stay in Sudan if freed: family

August 15, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Washington has asked Khartoum for guarantees that detained Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj will not leave Sudan before it releases him from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, his brother Asim al-Haj said on Wednesday.

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Sami al-Hajj

Haj, who grew up in Sudan but is based in Qatar for his work with the television channel, was arrested and turned over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

He was transferred to the U.S. prison in Cuba accused of involvement in "terrorist" activity.

"The U.S. administration wants to release Sami al-Haj," Asim al-Haj told Reuters after meeting Sudanese Foreign Ministry officials.

"But they want guarantees from the Sudanese government ... that if they release him he will not leave Sudan," he said.

Haj’s lawyer in London, Clive Stafford Smith, said any decision needed to be made quickly as Haj had been on hunger strike for more than 200 days.

The U.S. embassy in Khartoum had no immediate comment on the report.

Asim al-Haj said his brother could be released by the end of the month.

"The family are of course very happy to hear this news," he said, adding they would deal with the conditions of release once his brother returned to Sudan.

"This is a personal decision. His work is in Qatar. If he wants to return to work there then we will decide what to do."

Stafford Smith said the conditions would be unacceptable.

"It’s illegitimate to ban him from travel because his job is in Doha," he told Reuters. "With the British prisoners who were released none were banned from travel."

Four Britons released from Guantanamo have to get permission from their government to travel.

"We could live with that because the government is obviously not going to withhold permission because he’s done nothing wrong," Stafford Smith said.