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US to transfer Guantanamo prisoner to Yemen: report

world Updated: Jun 26, 2010 20:30 IST

AFP
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The Obama administration plans to transfer a Guantanamo detainee to Yemen despite its ban on the repatriations due to security concerns in the Arab country, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The administration's January decision on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the prison camp where nearly half of the remaining inmates are from Yemen, cast further doubt on President Barack Obama's vow to shutter the center seen by the White House as a prime recruiting tool for radical Islamic groups.

But US District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr has forced the administration's hand in "emphatically" ordering Mohammed Odaini to be released back to his home country after concluding that no evidence linked him to Al-Qaeda.

Administration officials told the Post that while they would abide by the court-ordered release, Obama's ban on transfers to Yemen would remain.

"The general suspension is still intact, but this is a court-ordered release," an unnamed told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.

"People were comfortable with this... because of the guy's background, his family and where he comes from in Yemen."

Odaini, who was 17 when he was first captured in Pakistan in 2002, is the son of a retired security officer. Kennedy said various military and civilian government officials had recommended or approved his transfer in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2009, and his sisters made a personal appeal to Obama.

The Obama administration has informed lawmakers of the plans to repatriate Odaini, according to the Post. But another administration official warned that the move "should not be viewed as a reflection of a broader policy for other Yemeni detainees."

Obama's interagency task force on Guantanamo has already cleared 29 Yemenis to return home and conditionally cleared another 30 if Yemen's security conditions improve. An official told the newspaper that courts could order up to 20 other Yemenis released due to insufficient evidence in their cases.

Some 90 Yemenis still linger at Guantanamo, a US naval base in southern Cuba, and it remains unclear how long the suspension of transfers to Yemen will last.

The administration's plans to close the prison have hit a number of hurdles since the White House acknowledged last year that it would not meet Obama's self-imposed January 2010 deadline to shutter the camp.