WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Yemeni doctor held as a terrorism suspect at Guantanamo has been cleared for transfer to an unknown country under the Obama administration’s plan to close the prison, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.
Ayman Saeed Batarfi is the second Guantanamo inmate to be cleared under the case-by-case reviews set up by President Obama in January. About 240 detainees remain at Guantanamo, and some have been held as long as seven years without charges.
“The United States will initiate the appropriate diplomatic process, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, to facilitate (Batarfi’s) prompt transfer from Guantanamo Bay to an appropriate destination country,” the department said in a court filing.
The prison at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has become a symbol for U.S. abuses in the war on terrorism, launched after the September 11 attacks.
Batarfi, who has contested his detention in U.S. courts, was moved to Guantanamo in May 2002, four months after he was taken into U.S. custody in Afghanistan in a U.S.-led offensive on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his followers.
He had been injured in an airstrike in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan before his capture.
The United States accused Batarfi of being chief medical adviser for an al-Qaeda-linked group, obtaining military training and acquiring medical supplies for the group. He is alleged to have stayed in Tora Bora at bin Laden’s personal request to treat wounded fighters.
The first Guantanamo prisoner freed under Obama’s review was British resident Binyam Mohamed, who returned to Britain in February after all charges against him were dropped. He accused the United States of torturing him.
Authorities have nearly completed assembling information on each inmate’s case for the review, a senior U.S. official told Reuters last week. The authorities may conduct more interviews with witnesses or inmates in some cases, he said.
“Our charge is to take a fresh, independent look at that information,” he said.
The options under consideration include freeing detainees, transferring them to another country, trying them in a U.S. civilian or military court, or continuing to detain them without trial.
Officials have said they do not intend to transfer any Guantanamo inmates to the U.S. Bagram military base in Afghanistan, where construction on a $60 million prison has spurred speculation that a “new Guantanamo” was being built.
Commenting last week on the Guantanamo review, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said any inmates freed in the United States may need resettlement aid.
“You can’t just sort of put them on the street ... but we need some sort of assistance to them to start a new life and not return to some of the conditions that may have inspired them in the first place,” he told reporters.
Editing by Paul Simao