Guantanamo inmates sent to Ireland


Two detainees held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to Ireland, the US Justice Department said yesterday.

A third detainee, Yemeni Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, was returned to his home county.

The Government has requested that the US authorities do not disclose the identities of the two detainees.

The latest transfers comes as President Barack Obama tries to close the facility by January.

There are still 223 detainees at the controversial prison at a US naval base in Cuba. Some are expected to be transferred abroad while others could face charges in US military tribunals or in American courtrooms.

Mr Obama has pledged to close by mid-January 2010 the facility set up by the Bush administration in 2002 to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan.

Recent reports have suggested the administration may not meet the deadline because of legal, political and diplomatic issues involving the detainees.

Ireland said previously it was looking at taking in two Uzbek prisoners. The United States has worried about sending some of the prisoners back to their home countries where they might be persecuted.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern TD said the resettlement of the detainees underscored Ireland’s commitment to assist in the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, describing it as "a humanitarian gesture".

"They should be allowed time and space to rebuild their lives," he said in a statement.

Amnesty International Ireland welcomed the move.

“Today the Irish Government has brought us one step closer to shutting down Guantánamo Bay,” said Amnesty International Ireland programmes director Noeleen Hartigan.

“Amnesty International strongly welcomes the announcement that two former detainees will be allowed to stay in Ireland and we hope that other countries, particularly in the EU, will follow our Government’s courageous example.

“We especially welcome the Government’s determination to protect the privacy of these men and we would ask people to respect their needs in this.”

Yemen's embassy in Washington said it welcomed the transfer of the Yemeni detainee, who it said had been held for seven years after he was detained in Pakistan in March 2002.

"Yemen will continue its diplomatic dialogue with the United States government to repatriate the remaining Yemeni detainees," the embassy said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration said it had struck a deal with the tiny island nation of Palau to take in as many as 12 Chinese Uighur detainees, and that so far six had agreed to go. Another four Uighurs have been moved to Bermuda.

Many detainees, including the released Yemeni, have challenged their detention at Guantanamo in a US federal court. So far, 30 have won legal battles ordering their release while seven have been denied.