WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense announced on Sunday that it had transferred five lower-level Yemeni detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba to the United Arab Emirates. The United States had held each for nearly 14 years as wartime prisoners, and none had been charged with a crime.
The transfers reduced the detainee population at the prison to 107. As many as 17 other proposed transfers of lower-level detainees are in the bureaucratic pipeline, an official familiar with internal deliberations said.
The resettlement of the Yemeni detainees was the first of its kind to the United Arab Emirates, which had previously taken in just one former Guantánamo detainee, in 2008 — its own citizen
Each of the five detainees was captured near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in late 2001, after the battle of Tora Bora, when many low-level fighters fled to the mountains, according to leaked military dossiers.
The transferred detainees included three men who had been recommended for transfer by a 2009 task force made up of six security-related agencies. Those detainees are Khalid Abd Jal Jabbar Muhammad Juthman al Qadasi,Sulaiman Awath Sulaiman Bin Ageel al Nahdi and Fahmi Salem Said al Sani.
There were also two men whom the task force recommended for continuing detention but whose status was later changed to transferable by a parolelike board. They are Ali Ahmad Muhammad al Rahizi and Adil Said al Haj Obeid al Busayss.
The Obama administration is expected to send Congress a plan soon to close the Guantánamo prison. The centerpiece of that plan is expected to be a provision to move to a prison in the United States the 59 remaining detainees who are not recommended for transfer. A statute passed by Congress currently bars the military from bringing any detainees onto domestic soil.
The other 48 remaining detainees are recommended for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country. Most, like those transferred over the weekend, would need to be resettled rather than repatriated because they are from Yemen, which is torn by a civil war.
The transfer comes as Congress has sent back to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature the National Defense Authorization Act. The defense policy bill includes tougher restrictions on Guantánamo releases, limits the White House opposes as encroaching on Obama’s commander-in-chief authority.
It also comes while the administration is crafting a plan that proposes to move at least some of the remaining captives to the United States to close the controversial detention center, an idea that many in Congress oppose — particularly those from Colorado, Kansas and South Carolina, which have military lockups under consideration as future war prison detention sites.
Obama administration sources said Carter signed off on the transfers more than 30 days ago and notified Congress, in keeping with statutory requirements. A U.S. Air Force cargo plane airlifted the five men from the base Friday, although it was not immediately known at what time of day.
Under the statute governing transfers, the secretary of defense must tell Congress 30 days before moving a detainee that he has determined that various security conditions have been met. Congress voted to tighten those standards as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which Mr. Obama is expected to sign this month.
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Source: The New York Times