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Release of two more Guantanamo detainees approved

Two men who have been held for years without charge at Guantánamo Bay – a Yemeni and an Afghan whose repatriation would most likely require reaching an agreement with the Taliban – have been approved for transfer, according to documents released Wednesday.

The Interagency Periodic Review Committee approved the transfers of Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi and Assadullah Haroon Gul with security arrangements, but did not suggest where Mr. Gul, an Afghan citizen detained by the US military since 2007, could be sent.

The council said al-Kazimi should be resettled in Oman, a country in the Persian Gulf bordering his native Yemen whose rehabilitation program accommodated 30 detainees under the Obama administration. Yemen is considered too unstable to monitor and help rehabilitate returnees.

The board approved Mr. al-Kazimi’s transfer on October 7, less than two weeks after the head of the State Department responsible for overseeing detainee transfer arrangements, John T. Godfrey, surrendered in Oman, United Arab Emirates and London as interim coordinator. for counterterrorism.

Biden administration officials declined to comment on efforts to repatriate or resettle acquitted detainees.

Mr. al-Kazimi, 41, was captured in Dubai in January 2003. US military intelligence viewed him as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard in Afghanistan. Mr al-Kazimi’s lawyer, Martha Rayner, a professor at Fordham Law School, said he was “in fairly good health” and “looks forward to being transferred as soon as possible.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and other officials have said the president’s goal is to clear the Guantánamo Bay detention center, reviving a pledge made by President Barack Obama when Mr. Biden was deputy. -President.

Congress has thwarted this effort by banning the transfer of any detainee from Guantanamo to the United States for any reason. The Biden administration has made no progress in lifting the restriction, which would be a key step towards closing the prison. Only one detainee, Abdul Latif Nasser of Morocco, has been released since Mr. Biden took office, under an agreement reached under the Obama administration.

Wednesday’s revelations brought to 12 the number of men among 39 wartime detainees at Guantanamo who can be released if the United States reaches an agreement with a host country to impose security restrictions, which would include measures such as restricting their ability to travel. abroad.

Twelve others are the subject of proceedings before a military commission, six of whom are charged with capital punishment. The other 15 detainees are held as prisoners of the “law of war”, essentially captive forever in the conflict that began after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Ms. Rayner said Mr. al-Kazimi was seeking transfer to an Arabic-speaking country where he could reunite with his wife and “one day see his four children and grandchildren”.

“What he wants is to live in a stable country in peace,” she said. But she added that Mr. al-Kazimi is “concerned about the unknowns awaiting him – and knows that many men have been cleared and yet have languished for years.”

The transfer of Mr. Gul presents more difficulties. His lawyers demanded his release through a petition for unlawful detention in federal court and last year won Afghan government support for his repatriation, before he fell to the Taliban.

He was captured by Afghan forces while serving as the commander of the Hezb-i-Islami militia, which fought the US and allied invasion of Afghanistan with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The board said in its decision, also dated October 7, that it concluded he could be transferred safely, with security arrangements, in light of his “lack of a leadership role in extremist organizations and his lack of a clear ideological basis for his past conduct. He did not make a recommendation on where he should go.

The United States has repatriated more than 200 Afghan detainees in the nearly 20 years it has held prisoners at Guantanamo, all while Afghanistan was ruled by an allied government and supported by the United States.

Oman is considered an ideal and culturally compatible nation for accommodating Yemeni detainees. The country’s program has sparked no known controversy and has helped Yemeni detainees find housing and employment and, in some cases, has allowed family members in Yemen to send women to marry.

In contrast, human rights groups and lawyers for some former detainees have criticized the UAE’s program for continuing to jail detainees sent there for reinsertion and resettlement, and then suddenly repatriating some of them. them in Afghanistan and Yemen.

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