The Times said a US judge has blocked the government from transferring 13 Yemeni prisoners from the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, until a hearing can be held on whether they face torture in another country.

The ruling is the first on a flurry of petitions filed on behalf of the prisoners, after reports emerged that the Pentagon was seeking to transfer about half of the 540 Guantanamo detainees to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The ruling by US District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer bans any transfer of the Yemenis until a hearing can be held on their lawyers' request for at least 30 days' notice of any transfer, the Times said.

The delay will allow lawyers to determine whether their clients willingly accept the transfer to a prison in their home countries, or whether they fear they will be tortured or indefinitely detained without trial, it said.

Lawyer's belief

 

"We want to find out where they're being sent and ask them if they want to go there," Barbara Olshansky of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is coordinating the legal push, said. "If the answer is yes, fine."

"We want to find out where they're being sent and ask them if they want to go there"

Barbara Olshansky,
Centre for Constitutional Rights

 

Marc Falkoff, a lawyer for the Yemeni detainees who interviewed them and reviewed government documents, said he did not believe they were terrorists.


Pentagon officials confirming the planned transfers said it had long been a US aim to turn over prisoners who no longer have intelligence value or pose a threat to their home government for release or continued detention.

The US Department of Defence said on Saturday that three more Guantanamo detainees had been transferred to Afghanistan, the Maldives and Pakistan for their expected release, officials said.

The transfers took place after a special US military tribunal found the three no longer qualified for the status of "enemy combatant".

Mounting pressure

The latest transfers brings the number of detainees moved from Guantanamo Bay to other countries to 214.

About 540 other detainees from 40 countries remain at the heavily guarded facility.

Most were detained in Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The United States had stepped up transfers from Guantanamo to its allies in recent months, as criticism of the camp and the legal action taken against holding the inmates has mounted.