Five Yemeni men who have been held for almost 14 years at the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have been released and sent to the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said Sunday.
The men were accepted for resettlement in the UAE after U.S. authorities determined they no longer posed a threat, the Defense Department said in a statement.
The released men arrived in the UAE on Saturday. The men were not released to Yemen because there is a de facto ban on transferring detainees to Yemen due to security concerns there. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act as passed by Congress would bar transfers to Yemen.
Ali al-Rahizi, 36, was among the five released men. In 2014 a parole-like review board cleared him for transfer.
While he was in prison, his mother passed away. His brother is disabled, and Rahizi’s detention put an economic burden on his elderly father. Rahizi would like to get married now, further his education and help with his family business.
The other four men had been cleared for transfer by the Obama administration for more than five years. None were charged with a crime. In the case of Adil al-Busayss, 42, he was recommended for transfer to a third country as early as 2004, according to a Department of Defense document.
"Think about that. He was cleared for transfer almost 12 years ago. Why did he have to stay there?" asked his lawyer David Remes.
Busayss was a compliant detainee, and he was held in communal conditions. "It is just incomprehensible [that he was held]. A lot about Guantánamo is incomprehensible, but this more than most," said Remes.
The other three men are Khalid al-Qadasi, who is 46 or 47; Sulayman al-Nahdi, 40; and Fahmi al-Asani, 38.
The five men were transferred as Barack Obama’s administration is preparing to present the a plan to Congress to close the detention facility. It is believed that some of the remaining prisoners would be sent to the U.S. There are 107 prisoners still at Guantánamo, 48 of whom are recommended for transfer. More men are expected to be released by year’s end.
In announcing the latest prisoner release, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement that the U.S. coordinated with the UAE “to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
It’s unclear where the men are currently held and if they will be subject to travel and other restrictions. It was not possible to reach UAE officials for comment by the time of publication. This is not the first transfer to the Gulf nation; an Emirati prisoner was repatriated in 2008.
The U.S. and the UAE have a significant and long-standing security partnership. The UAE has asked for further security assurances from the U.S. in light of a nuclear deal with Iran, which occupies three UAE islands.
U.S. military personnel are stationed in the UAE, which has joined the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.