2 Saudi prisoners go home from Gitmo
- Article by: CHARLIE SAVAGE
- New York Times
- December 16, 2013 - 9:27 PM
WASHINGTON – Two Saudi men held by the United States without trial for nearly 12 years at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been repatriated, the Pentagon said Monday.
In addition, a Sudanese news agency reported that its government expects the last two Sudanese nationals at Guantanamo to be flown on an American aircraft to Khartoum, arriving by Wednesday morning. If those transfers take place, they and the just-completed Saudi transfers would reduce the detainee population to 158.
The moves showed that the Obama administration’s recent push to winnow the population of lower-level detainees, which stagnated after restrictions were imposed by Congress, appears to be gaining momentum. Over the summer, President Obama appointed new envoys – Clifford Sloan at the State Department and Paul M. Lewis at the Pentagon – to revitalize the effort.
“The U.S. has made real progress in responsibly transferring Guantanamo detainees despite the burdensome legislative restrictions that have impeded our efforts,” Lewis said in a statement.
Congress is on the cusp of easing the Pentagon’s ability to transfer detainees to countries other than the United States; the provision is part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The House and the Senate have both agreed on a final version of the bill, which the House has already approved.
The legislation would replace a system in which the secretary of defense must personally certify that the receiving country has met a list of security conditions, or waive items case by case. The new system would be more flexible, converting the list of conditions into a group of factors the secretary must consider when determining whether a transfer is in the national interest.
The Saudi men who were transferred were Said Muhammad Husayn Qahtani, who is in his mid-30s, and Hamoud Abdullah Hamoud, 48. Neither had ever been charged with a crime, and both returned as Saudi nationals. They were among the last 11 Saudi citizens at the prison, from an all-time high of about 135.
© 2014 Star Tribune