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Five Guantanamo Prisoners Released & Sent to Kazakhstan

Three Yemenis and two Tunisians, who had each been cleared for release years ago, were released from Guantanamo Bay prison on December 30. They were sent to Kazakhstan and their release brought the number of prisoners who remain in detention to 127.

According to Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, Abdullah Bin Ali al Lutfi, a 48 year-old Tunisian, Adel al Hakeemy, a 49 year-old Tunisian, Asim Thahit Abdullah al Khalaqi, a 46 year-old Yemeni, Mohammed Ali Hussain, a 36 year-old Yemeni and Sabri Muhammed Ibrahim al Qurashi, a 44 year-old Yemeni, were resettled.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which has represented various Guantanamo prisoners, reacted, “We are encouraged by additional transfers and resettlements and hope they will continue until all Guantánamo prisoners the administration does not intend to charge are freed.”

“Whatever pretense of authority to detain the men at Guantánamo existed during combat operations in Afghanistan, it is quickly evaporating as those operations came to a close. That timeline should similarly guide the closing of the prison and bring a swift end to 13 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial,” CCR added.

While these men were cleared in 2009 by President Barack Obama’s own Guantanamo Bay review task force, prisoners from countries like Tunisia or Yemen have essentially been punished for their nationality and kept in detention because the countries they are from have been in turmoil.

The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on transfers for Yemeni prisoners, even if they were cleared. The moratorium was lifted in May 2013, but it was not until after the midterm election on November 20 that the administration transferred any cleared Yemeni prisoners out of the facility.

Lutfi, according to a Defense Department detainee assessment report released to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning and from June 27,2004, shows the Tunisian has suffered from “chronic problems with his heart rhythm” and has a “history of kidney stones, latent tuberculosis, depression and high blood pressure.” He was deemed to be a “low risk” prisoner because of his medical condition by Joint Task Force Guantanamo and recommended for release to another country.

In 2005, when he came before an administrative board of US military officers who ruled on his status as a prisoner, he told the board, “I am a normal person. I want to live a normal life.”

“I don’t have a problem against the United States. I don’t have a problem with any other country. I am a normal person just like any of you people. I think my time as a Detainee has been enough. It should do,” Lutfi added.

But the tribunal refused to change his designation as an “enemy combatant” and support his release.

There has been an uptick in releases in the past couple of months. Six prisoners were resettled in Uruguay on December 6. President José Mujica offered them asylum.

Saudi Mohammed al-Zahrani, who had spent 12 years in detention, was returned to Saudi Arabia on November 22.

The first Yemeni prisoners to be released from the prison were transferred to Georgia and Slovakia on November 20. One Tunisian prisoner was also resettled as well.

On November 5, Kuwaiti prisoner Fawzi al-Odah became the first prisoner cleared by a Periodic Review Board to be released from the prison. His father had fought for his release and the release of other Kuwaiti prisoners for years.

The Periodic Review Board cleared another prisoner, 35-year-old Yemeni Abdel Malik Wahab al-Rahabi, on December 10. He was among the first twenty prisoners to be brought to Guantanamo the day that Camp X-Ray was opened on January 11, 2002.

CCR urged President Obama to continue to release cleared Yemenis, including their clients, Tariq Ba Odah, Mohammed Al Hamiri, Fahd Ghazy, and Ghaleb Al-Bihani, and “put an end to their indefinite detention.”

The organization also stated, “We hope the January 1 departure of State Department Guantánamo envoy Cliff Sloan will not interrupt the momentum of transfers. It is imperative that President Obama appoint Sloan’s successor without delay and continue emptying the prison.”

Yet, while it seems the Obama administration may successfully release many of the innocent prisoners held without charge or trial, there are consistent signs that Guantanamo will not be closed as Obama pledged. For example, most recently, it was reported there was a plan to build a $65 million school for at most 275 kindergarten through high school students. It would be one of the most expensive schools in the world.

The Obama administration has also asserted that none of the changes between the US and Cuba will impact Guantanamo, even though Cuba objects to the continued US presence. It appears to intend to maintain the status quo and keep the base operational and flourishing.

Creative Commons Licensed Photo by Stephen D. Melkisethian

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."