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Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 12:43 UK

Freed Guantanamo prisoner is home

Freed cameraman carried into hospital

A cameraman from the al-Jazeera television station, freed from US detention in Guantanamo Bay, has arrived home in Sudan.

Sami al-Hajj had been in US custody for more than six years. He was detained in Afghanistan in 2001.

He arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on a US military plane in the early hours of Friday morning.

After a 16-month hunger strike, Mr Hajj grimaced as he was carried off the plane by US military personnel.

"I have been so overwhelmed with happiness that I've been in tears," he said shortly after his arrival.

"I have every right to cry after I've survived these seven horrid years of humiliation, repression and injustice for no fault on my part apart from being a Muslim."

Two other Sudanese nationals were freed from Guantanamo Bay and flown back home at the same time.

No charges

Al-Jazeera showed footage of Mr Hajj being carried into the hospital on a stretcher, looking frail but smiling and surrounded by well-wishers.

"We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well," said Wadah Khanfar, managing director of al-Jazeera's Arabic service.

Egyptian journalists hold a banner supporting Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, during a protest in Cairo, Egypt, 15 March, 2007
Protests had been held in the Arab world calling for Mr al-Hajj's release

There was no immediate US comment.

Human rights groups condemned Mr Hajj's imprisonment.

"His detention for six years, without the most basic due process, is a grave injustice and represents a threat to all journalists working in conflict areas," said Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mr Hajj was working as a cameraman for al-Jazeera when he was arrested by Pakistani troops near the Afghan border in December 2001 and later handed over to the US military.

Force-fed

Sami al-Hajj, who was 38 at the time of his capture, was accused of links to militant groups but not charged.

The US military alleged that he had been involved in funding Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990s.

Mr Hajj began a hunger strike at the beginning of 2007. His lawyers said he had been force-fed on several occasions.

He resolutely denied the allegations against him and his employers at al-Jazeera say the charges are politically motivated.

The US established the Guantanamo camp in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects captured during the war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of detainees have been released without charge but more than 275 remain and the US hopes to try about 80.




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