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Gitmo Detainee Sent|Home to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Defense Department announced Monday that a Guantánamo Bay detainee has transferred home to Saudi Arabia, the fourth such transfer to occur this month.

Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani, 40, had been held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp for 14 years.

His transfer brings the total detainee population at the prison located within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to 103.

Monday afternoon, a demonstration co-organized by human rights group Amnesty International, along with a coalition of other human rights and faith-based groups, gathered outside the White House to demand that President Obama make good on his promise to close the controversial prison.

"We're here today because we believe that President Obama has one more year to close Guantánamo - and we think Guantánamo is un-American and immoral, so we'd like him to close it," Matt Hawthorn, policy director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said in an interview.

The director of the Security and Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, Naureen Shah, agreed that the administration's time is running out, and said the stakes are high.

"My fear is that if President Obama does not close Guantánamo before leaving office, the next administration will either leave it open with the remaining detainees there, or actually seek to fill the beds there with new detainees captured off a global battlefield, in what's essentially become a permanent war on terrorism," Shah said.

"We're very worried," she added.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he would leave the prison open. He and several other candidates, including Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio and Ben Carson have also expressed a willingness to reconsider the use of torture for interrogation.

Because of that, Shah said the U.S. teeters on "a very dangerous moment," making the closing of Guantánamo an urgent matter.

"We want to close the door to the United States ever returning to internment, to taking people and saying that on vague, untested national security grounds you can hold them for the rest of their lives. We can't close the door to holding people without charge unless we close Guantánamo," Shah said.

The majority of Americans, however, do not support closing the prison, according to several public opinions polls. One Rasmussen poll from Jan. 2015 said that 53 percent of those polled did not support its closing, and feared that released detainees would attack the U.S. or its allies in the future.

Similarly, Gallup polls since 2009 have show that up to 66 percent of Americans do not support shuttering Guantánamo.

Speakers at a panel discussion on Saturday at First Trinity Lutheran Church in the District of Columbia said increasing Islamaphobia has led to public support for separate legal standards for Muslims since the U.S. launched its "war on terror."

That includes support for Guantánamo.

The talk, dubbed "Less than Human," focused how domestic policies have impacted Muslim prisoners at Guantánamo, and in controversial Communication Management Units found in several U.S. prisons.

The speakers said that portrayals of Muslims as inherently barbaric and prone to violence has allowed them to become subjected to a separate justice system, and the use of torture.

"We're no longer asking is it moral or immoral... we're asking if it's justified," said Dr. Maha Hilal, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.

Hilal said portrayals of Muslims as "subhuman" has meant that acts of violence committed by Muslims are devoid of any meaningful context.

Those acts deflect from the connection between U.S. policy and acts of violence committed by Muslims, and instead place the focus on "individuals who cannot control their anger," she said.

A 2015 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that the "war on terror" has directly or indirectly killed 1.3 million Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis. The majority of them - 1 million - were Iraqi.

Panelist Maj. Raashid Williams, defense counsel for one of Guantánamo's "high value" detainees, Ammar Al-Baluchi, said Americans tend to forget that the detainees are people.

Speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the U.S. military in which he serves, Williams said, "The injustices that occur (at Guantánamo) day after day are happening to human beings. The ramifications are very, very serious for Ammar, and the other detainees."

Al-Baluchi, alleged to be a senior member and planner of al-Qaeda, has been in detention at Guantánamo for more than 9 years.

"We're not even close to a trial date yet, we don't even have one set," Williams said. "This is all pre-trial punishment."

Williams, an avid reader who says he follows media coverage of Guantánamo closely, said in an interview that he never sees stories about the detainees themselves. Instead, he says media tends to cover only the political aspects of Guantánamo.

"I don't think we do a good enough job of humanizing them," he said of the detainees. "We let the prosecution really control the narrative on who these men are, 'they're the worst of the worst'...but they're not. I've met them, they're really not," he said.

Since Obama took office, his administration has released 139 Guantanamo detainees, while President Bush released 532. More than 40 detainees, who were cleared for release in 2009, continue to wait for transfer.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Guantanamo military tribunals violate military code and the laws of war according to the Geneva Conventions.

Denis McDonough, President Obama's chief of staff, said Sunday that the president intends to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo, which he first made seven years ago.

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