JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - A Saudi Arabian former Guantanamo Bay inmate who was “rehabilitated” in his homeland but then rejoined al Qaeda in Yemen has surrendered to the Saudi authorities.
Adnan al-Sayegh, who went through the kingdom’s militant rehabilitation program after returning from Guantanamo in March 2006, gave himself up in Yemen and expressed remorse, a Saudi Interior Ministry statement said on Monday.
Riyadh had been embarrassed when Sayegh, and other former Guantanamo inmates who went through the Interior Ministry’s rehabilitation program, escaped to Yemen and rejoined “the deviant group”, as Saudi Arabia calls al Qaeda.
“The wanted individual expressed remorse for his actions and his desire to return home and give himself in to the security service,” the statement said.
Sayegh was one of 85 suspected militants placed on a wanted list by the government of the world’s top oil exporter three years ago.
“He will be dealt with according to the measures set to deal with such cases, and his efforts will be taken into account,” the statement said, referring to his decision to hand himself in.
Saudi Arabia began to crack down on Islamist militants after al Qaeda waged a campaign of attacks on government and foreign targets in the kingdom from 2003-06.
Some detainees were put in the rehabilitation centers, where conservative Muslim clerics argued against militant ideology and inmates were given state aid to settle down and marry.
Although some former detainees at the rehabilitation center took up arms again, both the Saudi and U.S. governments saw the program as broadly successful, according to a March 2009 U.S. embassy cable released by WikiLeaks.
The cable said Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef told diplomats that the true purpose of the program was to win over public opinion.
“If the Saudi people saw that the (government) had offered these extremists a helping hand which they slapped away, instead of a clenched fist used against them, then their families, tribes and the Saudi nation as a whole would view the (government) as ‘the benefactor’ and these unrepentant extremists as ‘deviants’,” the cable said.
Reporting by Asma Alsharif, editing by Tim Pearce