2 Gitmo detainees said to be Algeria-bound
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning to transfer two Guantanamo Bay detainees to Algeria, the first movement of terrorist suspects from the prison since the president announced a renewed push to close the contentious facility run by the U.S. military in Cuba.
The White House said on Friday that it was starting the transfers as part of President Obama's goal to close the prison, a campaign promise that has eluded him since he took office. The move signaled a new push to reduce the population of 166 detainees at the prison, where dozens are on a hunger strike to draw attention to their indefinite detention.
The White House said the two detainees will not be identified until after the transfer, which can't happen until after a 30-day waiting period. Administration officials also wouldn't say what security assurances they had from the Algerian government as part of the arrangement.
An administration official said the detainees were chosen because Algeria is a close U.S. ally that has successfully managed detainees in the past — none of the previous 12 to be released have returned to terrorist activities, unlike some returned to other countries. The official, speaking on a condition of anonymity without authorization to publicly discuss the process, said it has been in the works since several months before Obama announced his intention this spring to push anew for closure.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed off on the transfer based on the recommendation of an interagency team after a months-long review. As part of the certification process that has been required by Congress for more than two years, Guantanamo detainees can be transferred if the Defense secretary certifies that the individual is not at risk to engage in terrorist activities.
That's a high bar that had slowed the transfer process with 166 remaining at Guantanamo, with the last transfer in September 2012.
Seven Algerian detainees remain at Guantanamo, including five who have been cleared for transfer. Attorney Cori Crider of the British human rights group Reprieve was on a previously scheduled phone call with one of them, 34-year-old Nabil Hadjarab, when the White House announced the certification. She said they were both sort of “shocked” about the prospect of movement. Crider said she did not know whether he or her other Algerian client, 43-year-old Ahmed Bel Bacha, were among the two up for transfer.
The hunger strike, in which both her clients have taken part, and pressure from members of Congress have clearly forced the Obama administration to take action, Crider said.
“I think this month there has been more attention and more pressure on the administration in some years to make some progress and there is finally a response,” she said from London.
In the past, Bel Bacha has said he does not wish to return to Algeria, where he has been convicted in absentia for belonging to a terrorist group and given a 20-year-sentence.
In 2010, six Algerian detainees resisted efforts to be repatriated, saying they'd rather stay at the prison camp than return to their home country. The most prominent case was that of Aziz Abdul Naji, who argued all the way to the Supreme Court that he might face torture in Algeria. The Supreme Court rejected his plea, and he was transferred in 2010, indicted and placed under judicial supervision.
Administration officials say they carefully examine standards of treatment in receiving countries as part of the repatriation process and are confident the Algerians being transferred will be treated humanely.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama wants to end U.S. companies skirting tax laws by merging with overseas entities
- Tyrannosaurs ran in packs, fossils prove
- U.N. school in Gaza shelled; 15 Palestinian civilians killed, many children wounded
- Glenn Beck takes on Common Core
- Southwest water loss troubles experts
- 3 teens held in Albuquerque homeless killings
- HGH use on the rise in teens, survey finds
- House panel votes to sue Obama over health law implementation
- Poverty programs would be merged
- Death penalty foes decry bungled execution
- Tornado slams Virginia campground, killing 2