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New life in Uruguay for former Guantanamo detainees like ‘being born for the second time’

Abu Wa'el Dhiab is one of six former Guantanamo detainees who were resettled in Uruguay this week, after being held for more than a decade without being charged. Cori Crider, lawyer for the former prisoner, talks to Judy Woodruff about life for the men after Guantanamo.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Six former Guantanamo detainees were transferred to the South American country of Uruguay this week. They were terror suspects, but never charged with any crimes.

    One of the men, Abu Wa'el Dhiab, has been on a hunger strike for years and was subjected to force feedings. His attorneys have sued the U.S. government for release of videotapes of the force-feeding sessions.

    I spoke with his attorney, Cori Crider, a short time ago in Uruguay.

    Cori Crider, welcome.

    These men who have been released, they have now been in Uruguay for almost a week. What's it's been like for them? How have they been received?

    CORI CRIDER, Attorney for Former Guantanamo Bay Prisoner: I have never, in my many years of doing this work, seen a reception like this.

    It has been overwhelming in its warmth and its compassion. When my client, who has been on a hunger strike for most the past two years, was going around the hospital ward to have tests, other patients in the hospital came out of their wards and leaned in and smiled and waved.

    I have been hugged by grandmothers in the supermarket simply because I am a lawyer who represents a Guantanamo prisoner. The warmth of the people of Uruguay has been overwhelming. We're so grateful and so pleased.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, I read that some of the men went for a long walk today. And I know that, as you mentioned, your client has been on a hunger strike. His health has been a real issue. How is he doing?

  • CORI CRIDER:

    He's recovering slowly. With every day, he seems to have a bit more color in his face, but he wasn't, unfortunately, one of the men to go on a long walk.

    We have been talking about it. And I showed him photographs of the sunset. But, as yet, he hasn't — he hasn't gone out. But the others, they smelled the sea air for the first time in 12 years, and that's a really special moment when you have been held without charge or trial, of course.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How free are they, Cori Crider, to move about and do what they want?

  • CORI CRIDER:

    They're free. They have gone down to the cafe. I think they have done a spot of kind of shopping with some friends.

    At the moment, I think the thing that's most difficult is, I don't think any of us can really comprehend the extent to which 12 years in Guantanamo without charge or trial takes time to recover from. One of my clients basically said to me, it is effectively like being born for the second time.

    They are having to learn things very basic. Another client once said, "I haven't heard the laughter of a child in over 10 years."

    So, after having so much loss, they're really just taking their first steps as men, as free men again.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So what is next for them? What are their plans, to the extent they have any?

  • CORI CRIDER:

    Yes. Well, of course, it takes time to make plans, and we are really only on sort of day six of having a future at all.

    But, that said, when I talked to Abu Wa'el Dhiab, reprieve client, we discussed how he used to manage a Syrian restaurant and maybe he could start a Syrian food craze here in Montevideo.

    Some of them are well into their Spanish classes. And they are progressing. But, of course, it will take time. The trauma they have been few, in my client's case, the forcible cell extractions, with the riot squad hauling him from his cell and the force feedings, of course, those will take time to recover from, but I'm delighted to say that they're all on the road to recovery.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Cori Crider, the attorney for one of the men released this week from Guantanamo Bay, thank you.

  • CORI CRIDER:

    Thanks so much.

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