A group of former Guantanamo Bay prison camp detainees have staked out the U.S. embassy in Uruguay in a demonstration meant to pressure the U.S. government to provide them taxpayer-funded reparations for their time spent in the terrorist prison, according to Uruguayan officials.
Three of the six former detainees sent to Uruguay following their release from Gitmo have spent days camped in front of the U.S. embassy located in Montevideo, according to Uruguayan officials and regional reports.
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The former inmates are demanding the U.S. government provide them with taxpayer-funded financial support and pay for their housing. They have been receiving about $600 a month from the Uruguay government, but claim this is not enough for them to subsist.
Several of them have turned down job offers in the past months, according to those familiar with the issue.
"We are not leaving until we speak with the ambassador," one former detainee, Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, was quoted as telling the Buenos Aires Herald Monday.
After failing to gain an audience with U.S. officials, the protestors have continued their strike throughout the week, according to separate reports.
The U.S. embassy confirmed that the former Gitmo inmates were stationed outside of the building and urged them to schedule a meeting through proper channels.
"A group of ex-detainees from the Guantanamo Detention Center that have been in Uruguay for several months, recently appeared in front of the U.S. Embassy requesting a meeting with the head of the Embassy," a spokesman said in a statement.
"The Embassy is aware of this request and asks that all requests for meetings be made through the appropriate channels and during normal business hours," the statement says.
An Embassy spokesman declined to provide further comment on the matter when contacted by the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday.
The former inmates were released from Gitmo and sent to Uruguay late last year after serving several years in the detention facility for suspected ties to the terror group al Qaeda.
Those transferred to Uruguay had been suspected or being members of various terror cells and of participating in hostilities against U.S. forces. Omar Mahmud Faraj is believed to have received suicide operations training by al Qaeda.
Another demonstrator, Abdul Bin Mohammed, is believed to have had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terror attacks and links to top al Qaeda members.
Several of the former detainees have been trained to carry out suicide operations, while at least one other has training with explosives.
"The danger is they could actually carry out terrorism," said J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman for the Western hemisphere. "These guys could actually do a lot of damage."
As it has with other onetime prisoners who have not been put on trial, the Obama administration released them from Gitmo after determining they posed no security risk.
"We are here to express our frustration. More than five months has passed, and nothing has changed," former detainee Ali Hussein Shaaban was quoted as telling reporters during the first night of the demonstration. "We do not see that anything will change in the future, and so tonight, we wish for this time to become a turning point."
The decision by the Uruguayan government to accept the former prisoners has emerged as a point of contention in the country. The ongoing strike has only exacerbated tensions between governing factions surrounding the issue.
Luis Heber, a member of the Uruguayan senate, said on Monday that he has "reservations" about some decisions made by the government.
"We’ve received [six] prisoners from Gitmo," Heber said. "This created a tremendous debate in the country.
"Three of them yesterday held a protest in front of the U.S. embassy … [and] this has created a whole problem because they haven’t left."
Former Pentagon spokesman Gordon said the demonstration has highlighted the problems caused by the Obama administration’s ongoing release of Gitmo prisoners.
"The bottom line is these guys went from terrorists to freeloaders," Gordon said. "It’s amazing to even consider the fact they want essentially U.S. welfare.
"One of the great ironies is these guys don’t want to work. They think it’s beneath them."
Gordon said he would not be surprised if the Obama administration consented to their demands in order to defuse the situation.
"Just to make this problem go away for now, it totally would not surprise me if they gave them a payout," Gordon said. "These [former detainees] are terrorist prima donnas and I think the Obama administration might cave. They’d rather have this problem go away and just pay money, even though it’s taxpayer money."