Montevideo: A former Guantanamo inmate resettled in Uruguay after staging a hunger strike appealed Thursday to neighboring Argentina to take in other prisoners from the controversial US military detention center.
Syrian national Jihad Diyab, one of six former Guantanamo inmates released in Uruguay as refugees in December, traveled to the Argentine capital Buenos Aires to call on the government there to follow Uruguay`s lead.
"I`m never going to forget my comrades who are still there (at Guantanamo). That`s why I came here to continue the struggle. For example, the Argentine government can take in Guantanamo prisoners here for humanitarian reasons," Diyab, 43, told journalists from two radio stations.
Diyab was dressed in his orange prison jumpsuit as he spoke to the journalists, said one reporter who was present, Martin Suarez of rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo`s radio station.
"These clothes are part of me. Before I got out, they told me to change my clothes and put on a brown suit. I put it on over this, because it`s symbolic and very important to me," he said, in comments translated from Arabic into Spanish.
While a prisoner, Diyab launched a court case in the United States in an unsuccessful bid to stop prison officials from force-feeding him during his hunger strike.
He lashed out Thursday at the US government, saying he and his fellow inmates had been unjustly labelled "enemy combattants."
"Americans` true enemy is American government policy," he said.
The Uruguayan government allows Diyab and the other resettled former inmates to travel freely.
He made the trip to Buenos Aires with a Uruguayan travel document, taking one of the high-speed ferries that link the Argentine and Uruguayan capitals across the River Plate.Besides Diyab, Uruguay took in three other Syrian inmates, a Palestinian and a Tunisian, all in their 30s and 40s.
The four Syrians are currently staying at a house provided by Uruguayan labor union federation PIT-CNT, while the Palestinian and Tunisian are staying at a hotel and join the others for Spanish classes.
PIT-CNT director Fernando Gambera told weekly newspaper Busqueda that the men are having some trouble transitioning to their new lives.
"They still need to learn Spanish and (overcome) the cultural barriers that exist, but above all it`s fundamental that they start to work as soon as possible because that will give them a social identity," he said.
Uruguay`s left-wing President Jose Mujica agreed to resettle the inmates on "humanitarian grounds" in a bid to help his US counterpart Barack Obama fulfill his long-delayed promise to close the prison set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The inmates had spent more than 12 years in custody.
Detained as part of the US "War on Terror" for alleged links to Al-Qaeda, they were never charged or tried.
They had been cleared for release, but the United States ruled they could not be sent to their home countries for security reasons.
Uruguay is the first South American country to accept inmates from the prison at the US naval base in southeastern Cuba.
In all, some 55 countries have accepted detainees as the Obama administration works to close the prison despite Congress` refusal to allow inmates to be transferred to the United States.
Currently, 122 prisoners remain at Guantanamo.
Obama renewed his vow to close the prison in his State of the Union address last month.