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Guantanamo Yemen transfers queried
US says repatriations will continue despite some legislators' fears.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2010 15:21 GMT

A failed aeroplane bombing has put the international spotlight on Yemen's struggle with al-Qaeda [AFP]

The US administration is coming under pressure from legislators to reconsider the repatriation of Yemenis held at Guantanamo Bay, amid an increasing focus on al-Qaeda-linked activity in their home country.

The White House, though, has signalled it intends to continue with the transfers and of an estimated 90 Yemenis being held at the controversial prison, about half are set to be sent to Yemen.

Those who remain in U.S. custody will be prosecuted in criminal or military courts, John Brennan, a senior security adviser to the president, said on Sunday.

"Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the right pace and in the right way," Brennan said, speaking on American news network CNN.

"We're making sure that the situation on the ground is taken into account, that we continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very commonsense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo."

Repatriations questioned

Many of the legislators calling for the re-think support closing the Guantanamo Bay, a commitment made by Barack Obama, the US president, at the time of his election.

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But concerns over repatriating Yemenis emerged in the wake of a failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day.

The man accused of trying to bomb the flight allegedly received training and explosives from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group based in Yemen.

Both Democratic and Republican senators warned last week of a possible security disaster if Washington transferred detainees back to Yemen without guarantees from Sanaa that they will not return to the battlefield.

Joe Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut who has opposed closing Guantanamo, also said transferring any of the Yemeni detainees back home would be irresponsible.

"We know from past experience that some of them will be back in the fight against us," Lieberman said on news network ABC.

'Political firestorm'

But David Remes a lawyer for some of the Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo who have returned to their country, said that the government should not allow politics to derail the repatriations.

"The Obama administration has been going through a very rigorous individual-by-individual assessment of the detainees it's returning home," he told Al Jazeera.

"It's only returning detainees home that it's determined present no danger to the United States, either because a court has ruled that the men are being unlawfully held or because an inter-agency review team ... have concluded that these particular men are not a threat to the United States."

He said it was "very unfortunate that these men from Yemen who are detained in Guantanamo, some for eight or nine years, are getting caught up in the political firestorm".

Obama has already abandoned his pledge to close Guantanamo by January 22, but no new deadline has been set.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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