GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, July 10 (UPI) -- A Guantanamo Bay detainee from Yemen has been transferred to Italy after spending more than 14 years being held without charged, the Department of Defense announced Sunday.
The secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer, which meets the statutory standard.
That leaves 78 captives at the detention facility, which Obama wants to close when he leaves office next January.
"The United States is grateful to the Government of Italy for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said in a news release.
"The United States coordinated with the Government of Italy to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."
Jon Sands, an Arizona federal public defender, told the Miami Herald he didn't believe Suleiman had family ties in Italy. But he said, the country is "a good place for anyone. It's a good place for him, and we hope he can find some peace after his detention at Guantanamo."
Suleiman arrived at the Camp X-Ray compound in its first week, on Jan. 17, 2002. He was never charged with a crime and was cleared for release in 2009 by an Obama administration task force. But State Department officials looked for a nation to take him because, as a Yemeni, he could not go home.
Pentagon records show he was born in Saudi Arabia and worked as an imam at King Abdulaziz Airport northwest of Mecca. He was brought to Guantanamo after Pakistani security forces apparently captured him in November 2001 as he fled Afghanistan, by way of Tora Bora. He was jailed there for two weeks and then turned him over to the U.S. as an al-Qaida suspect. Information, however, came from a discredited informant -- a Yemeni named Mohammed Basardah.
In an unlawful detention case, he claimed he went to Afghanistan in search of a wife. The case was never decided.