US transfers Tajik and Yemeni Guantanamo inmates to Serbia

US transfers Tajik and Yemeni Guantanamo inmates to Serbia

By Loree Lewis   
Guards from the Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion escort a detainee to the medical facility in Camp Four at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center on Nov. 23, 2007. (Photo: JTF Guantanamo photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Billings.)

The two men are the first Guantanamo inmates Serbia has accepted.

WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – The Pentagon said Monday that it transferred a Tajik and a Yemeni Guantanamo inmate to Serbia as part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the detention center on the U.S. base in Cuba, bringing the number of detainees down to 76.

Yemeni national Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi, who is believed to be 36 or 37, had been held at the prison for over 14 years. He is accused of being a member of al Qaeda who knew of the 9/11 terror attacks before they were launched, a commander of the Taliban’s elite guerrilla 55th Arab Brigade and a member of a small group of al-Qaeda fighters instructed by Osama bin Laden to establish operations in Yemen in the event that the group was ousted from Afghanistan, according to military documents obtained by The New York Times. He was never charged and was cleared for release in 2015 by consensus of the six departments and agencies that make up the Periodic Review Board.

Tajik national Muhammadi Davlatov, 37, had been held at the prison for over 14 years. He is accused of having ties to Al Qaeda as a member of the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan and possibly the related Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to military documents obtained by the NY Times. He was never charged and was cleared for release by the Guantanamo Review Task Force in 2010.

“The United States appreciates the generous assistance of Serbia as the United States continues its efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Serbia’s leadership on the global stage,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a written statement.

The two men are the first Guantanamo inmates Serbia has accepted.

The State Department’s envoy for closure of Guantanamo, Lee Wolosky, told lawmakers last week while defending the Obama administration’s policy that accepting nations “view a detainee transfer as an opportunity to deepen security, and counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation with the United States.”

The Pentagon said Sunday that it had transferred a Yemeni inmate from Guantanamo to Italy.

The transfers comes amid worry that former Guantanamo inmate, and Syrian national, Abu Wa’el Dhiab has disappeared from the sights of the government of Uruguay, where he was transferred in 2014.

Lawmakers during the same hearing last week accused President Barack Obama of recklessly releasing detainees to other countries in order to make good on a 2008 campaign promise to close the prison, including that, “Many countries just aren’t up to the job.”

President Barack Obama intends to close the detention center in Cuba before he leaves office in 2017. Under a closure plan sent to Congress in February, he intends to transfer or repatriate those cleared for release, currently 26 people, prosecute others and keep those that are deemed the most dangerous in a prison on the U.S. homeland.

The President will not use unilateral executive action to shutter the facility, but White House officials have said he instead intends to work with Congress to pass legislation that will allow the plan to progress.

The closure plan has received strong pushback from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers who worry about bringing detainees to the U.S., citing security concerns. Lawmakers also cite concern over detainees returning to the fight after being released.

Of the 532 detainees released under President George W. Bush, 185 are confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorist activities, according to the last public figures released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Under Obama, 19 of the 144 released detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to terrorist activities.

During the same testimony, Wolosky, said transfers are made only after the receiving country assures the U.S. that it will provide “a security framework that we assess will substantially mitigate the threat a detainee may pose after transfer.”

The process by which detainees are transferred abroad came under renewed scrutiny after The Washington Post published a story last month that said at least 12 detainees released from Guantanamo under the Bush administration have killed near a half-dozen Americans in Afghanistan. The report added details to testimony the Defense Department’s envoy for Guantanamo closure, Paul Lewis, gave to Congress earlier this year, when he said former detainees had killed Americans.

Under the current law, the government is barred from using federal funds to transfer or release Guantanamo detainees within the U.S. and prohibited from using federal monies for the construction, modification or acquisition of any facility in the U.S. to house detainees.

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