US transfers first Guantanamo prisoner under Trump

WASHINGTON, May 03 (INP): The Pentagon on Wednesday announced the transfer of a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba to Saudi Arabia, where he will serve the remainder of his 13-year sentence.

In a statement, it said 43-year-old Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi, who allegedly pleaded guilty to helping plan an attack in 2002 on a French oil tanker, has waived his right to appeal.

“In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States’ intent to transfer this individual and of the secretary’s determination that this transfer met the statutory standard,” it said in the statement.

With Al Darbi’s transfer, 40 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

With the abrupt transfer announcement, Al Darbi has become the first detainee to leave the formidable wartime prison under President Donald Trump, who decided to keep the prison open and has vowed to fill it back up.

The statement also noted that the U.S. coordinated with the Saudi government to ensure the transfer took place in accordance with established standards for security and “humane treatment”.

There are many reports that prisoners at the facility have faced unlawful torture, and some have not been able to obtain access to adequate medical treatment.

The Guantanamo Bay prison was opened shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The first terrorism suspects were detained and taken to the prison on Jan. 11, 2002 under the order of then-President George W. Bush.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama promised to shut down the controversial prison after taking office in 2009 but was met with stiff opposition in Congress.

A security spokesman told Saudia Arabia’s state news agency SPA that Darbi arrived back in the Kingdom late on Wednesday evening.

His family had been informed of his return and arrangements were being made for him to meet them, the spokesman said, confirming that Darbi would now join a “rehabilitation programme”.

Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008, but on the campaign trail Trump vowed to load the facility with “bad dudes”, and said it would be “fine” if US terror suspects were sent there for trial.

Trump in January signed an executive order reversing his predecessor Barack Obama’s ultimately fruitless 2009 directive to shutter Guantanamo.

Mattis’s recommendations to the White House provide “our warfighters guidance on nominating detainees for transfer to Guantanamo detention should that person present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States”, Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Sarah Higgins said.

The Pentagon did not provide any additional details on the recommendations, and it was not clear what impact they would have.

The president’s National Security Council declined to comment.

INP/LK/AJ