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Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Transferred to Saudi Arabia

Michael Johnson
Camp Delta at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Photo: AFP)

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it had relocated a detainee held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Saudi Arabian authorities. The transfer marks the first resettlement of a prisoner out of the controversial facility since President Trump took office in 2017.

The inmate, Ahmed al-Darbi, first arrived at the Camp Delta detention facility in August 2002. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to the 2002 bombing of the MV Limburg, a French-owned oil tanker operating off the coast Yemen. Darbi admitted that he had helped plan the attack, buying the boats for the assault, which killed one shipman and wounded 12 others.

A U.S. military tribunal sentence Darbi to 13 years in prison on the terrorism charges, but offered to transfer him to Saudi Arabia to serve out the remainder of his sentence. As part of the agreement, Darbi could not appeal his imprisonment or sue the United States over the conditions of his incarceration, even though he claims he was tortured.

Darbi’s departure brings the total number of detainees still housed at Camp Delta to 40, down drastically from the more than 700 inmates held at the facility in the early years of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. President Obama campaigned heavy on closing down the facility, which housed 242 detainees when he took office.

Many of the inmates that remained detained pose a threat to U.S. security interests, but prosecutors do not possess enough evidence to secure a conviction in civilian criminal court. Other detainees could not be transferred back to their home country, most notably Yemen, because there is not a local government to oversee them. In 2015, Congressional Republicans adopted legislation that blocked federal funding to relocate to the U.S. mainland; others received transfers to U.S. allies. As of March 2017, a total of 208 released inmates are confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorist activities, according to a report authored by the Director of National Intelligence.

Upon taking office in 2017, President Trump signed an executive order calling for the Pentagon to review the criteria for sending a suspected terrorist to Guantanamo. The New York Times reported that the Defense Department only uses the facility as a last resort; no new inmates arrived at the camp since 2008. Instead, the military keeps suspected terrorist in custody of local allies and will try to prosecute in civilian court, if necessary.