Guantánamo’s prison population fell by almost 10 percent on Thursday with the transfer of 10 Yemeni men to the Gulf nation of Oman. Among them was Fahd Ghazy, who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was just 17 years old.
“Almost 14 years ago to the day, Fahd arrived at Guantánamo as a boy, shackled and hooded,” his attorney Omar Farah said in a press statement. “Today — finally — he is free.”
The transfer of the 10 men brings the total number at the infamous prison to 93, the lowest number since January 16, 2002 — just days after Guantánamo opened.
The other men released Thursday include Samir al Hasan Moqbel, 38, who had been at the prison since the day it opened in 2002. He has been cleared for transfer since 2010.
“Years ago the military said I was a ‘guard’ for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch,” Moqbel wrote in an opinion piece in 2013.
The others released to Oman are Adam Mohammed Ali Awad, Muktar Yahya Najee al Warafi, Abu Bakr Ibn Ali Muhammad Alahdal, Muhammad Salah Hussain al Shaykh, Mohammad Sa’id Bin Salman, Said Muhammed Salih Hatim, Umar Said Salim al Dini and Fahi Ahmed al Tulaqi.
The men will be in Oman for a “temporary stay” and were taken there in response “to a request of the U.S. government to assist in settling the case of the detainees … and in consideration of their humanitarian situations,” according to a statement by Oman News Agency. Previously, at least 10 detainees have been transferred to Oman.
In his State of the Union address this week, President Barack Obama referred to his 2008 campaign promise to shut Guantánamo — which he has so far failed to deliver on — saying he would keep working to close the prison.
“It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies,” Obama said.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, is among those critical of the president’s efforts to close Guantánamo.
"Any Obama administration decision to transfer a large number of Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo to Oman would represent a thinly veiled attempt to undercut the will of Congress and would further endanger the American people,” Ayotte said prior to the men’s release to Oman.
“While current law bans the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to Yemen, the administration may attempt to circumvent that prohibition by sending terrorist detainees to the neighboring country of Oman.”
Four men were released earlier in January — a Saudi and a Kuwaiti were repatriated and two Yemenis were sent to Ghana. Three more lower-level prisoners are expected to be transferred this month.
All the men cleared for transfer under the Obama administration were unanimously approved for release by six federal agencies with a stake in national security. Of the remaining 34 men cleared for release, they could leave Guantánamo later this year.
“We are in various stages of negotiations with a variety of foreign governments — some of those being in the final stages,” said Ian Moss, the chief of staff to Lee Wolosky, a state department official who negotiates transfers.
As for Fahd Ghazy, he is now 31.
“There was never much doubt that Fahd’s imprisonment was unnecessary — he was cleared for release nearly a decade ago — yet he grew up at Guantánamo waiting for successive presidents to correct a glaring injustice,” his lawyer, Omar Farah said.
Ghazy can now reclaim his life.
“I am not ISN 26,” he said. “That is the government’s number. My name is Fahd Ghazy. I am a human being, a man who is loved and who loves.”