U.S. SENDS NINE YEMENI PRISONERS FROM GUANTANAMO BAY TO SAUDI ARABIA
Published: April 17, 2016
The United States on Saturday transferred nine Yemeni men to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, including an inmate who had been on a hunger strike since 2007, under a long-sought diplomatic deal between Washington and Riyadh, U.S. officials said.
The transfer, which took place just days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia for a summit of Gulf Arab allies, marked the latest step in his final push to close the controversial detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba before he leaves office in January 2017.
The Saudis agreed, after lengthy negotiations that at one point involved Obama and Saudi King Salman, to take the nine Yemenis for resettlement and put them through a government-run rehabilitation program that seeks to reintegrate militants into society, the officials said.
The group announced by the Pentagon was the largest shipped out of the Guantanamo Bay prison since Obama rolled out his plan in February aimed at shutting the facility. But he faces stiff opposition from many Republican lawmakers as well as some fellow Democrats.
There are now 80 prisoners at Guantanamo, most held without charge or trial for more than a decade, drawing international condemnation.
The most prominent of the transfers was Tariq Ba Odah, a 37-year-old Yemeni whom the military had been force-feeding daily since he went on a hunger strike in 2007. His legal team said he was down to 74 pounds, losing about half of his body weight.