Six Yemenis return from Guantanamo [Archives:2006/1009/Local News]

December 21 2006

By: Amel Alariqi
SANA'A, Dec, 19 ) Six Yemeni nationals who had been detained at the U.S. military jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have returned to Yemen, said a Yemeni Interior Ministry source on Monday.

Saba news agency quoted an Interior Ministry source saying that they are still in talks with the U.S. Administration about handing over the rest of the Yemeni detainees. Saba did not provide further details about the freed prisoners or say whether they would face trial in Yemen. However, the Associated Press quoted an official speaking on the condition of anonymity as saying they were being held by Yemeni authorities to determine if they have any terror ties.

“As usual, Yemeni authorizes re-seized those who came back from Guantanamo, putting them in jail for a long time. Namely they are transferred from Guantanmo prison to anther prison in their country,” commented lawyer Khaled Al-Ansi, executive manger in Yemeni Human Rights Organization.

The U.S. military repatriated 18 detainees from Guantanamo Bay over the weekend to Afghanistan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Libya and Bangladesh, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday. The men, flown out of the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba on Friday, were all transferred to the custody of governments in their native countries except for one Yemeni detainee, who was released without conditions, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler. Yemeni officials did not have any information about the detainee released without conditions.

Last year, Yemen received four Yemeni citizens from the Guantanamo prison and put them on trial. Two of the men were convicted last March of falsifying identification documents and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. None were charged with terrorism-related activities.

“These sentences were only to justify the long time that they spent in the jail,” said Al-Ansi.

According to a list received by the Yemeni government from U.S. about 106 Yemenis remain at Guantanamo. However lawyers and human activists referred to the existence of about 150 Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo. In June, a Yemeni and two Saudi Arabians committed suicide at Guantanamo and their bodies were sent to their homelands. A study revealed that 95 percent of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo, who were arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan following the fall of the Taliban, have no Al-Qaeda links. According to the study, only five percent of detainees were involved in military operations launched by Al-Qaeda's network.

The study said most Yemenis arrested were working as Quranic and Arabic language teachers in Afghanistan at a monthly salary of $100 for married teachers and half that for singles.

Through information obtained from Yemeni families and testimonies of Yemeni Guantanamo detainees, most detainees were arrested in Pakistan due to the $5,000 award offered by U.S. authorities to anyone reporting about those escaping into Pakistan from Afghanistan. This encouraged Pakistanis to inform U.S. authorities of any Arab national they discovered.

According to the study's findings, U.S. authorities have no evidence to convict at least 95 percent of Yemenis detained at Guantanamo in connection with military operations. It added that most detainees were captured during military operations in Afghanistan.

According to Pentagon figures, about 380 detainees have been released from Guantanamo from at least 29 countries since 2002, including Albania, Afghanistan, Britain, Egypt, Iran, Yemen and Iraq. After the release of these recent 18, there are around 395 detainees remained at the U.S. navel base at Guantanamo.