With the prison camps at Guantánamo approaching their 10th year, some of the majority Yemeni captive population have just received a new perk: video conferencing back to family via a new link set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Geneva-based group announced the service's inauguration on Tuesday, saying four Yemeni captives had been allowed to use the teleconferencing this month in calls beamed between the Navy base in southeast Cuba and the nation on the Arabian Peninsula.
Prisoners and family can speak by video for up to an hour, according to a Red Cross statement. It said some detainees and their families can now see and speak to each other "for the first time in almost a decade.''
The ICRC had earlier acted as go-between for the captives and their families with "Red Cross Messages.'' Those are the brief exchanges on official forms that the Pentagon sanctioned soon after it opened the camps on Jan. 11, 2002, provided the military could review each message before delivery.
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The United States holds 90 Yemenis at Guantánamo, according to the ICRC. They account for the largest nationality among the 174 captives at the prison camps. One is segregated from the rest as a war criminal -- former video-maker Ali Hamza al Bahlul, 41, convicted in late 2008 of being Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda recruiter and propagandist.
"Nothing -- not even live video -- can replace a face-to-face visit, but a video call is considerably more satisfying than a phone call or written message,'' Nourane Houas, an ICRC delegate in Sana'a, Yemen, said in a statement.
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