US denies plans to send 70 Yemeni detainees home
( dpa )- The US Defence Department said Friday it had no plans to release 70 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Yemeni authorities.
The Pentagon's denial came after a a Yemeni member of parliament told reporters in Sana'a Friday that the United States planned on extraditing the detainees.
"The United States does not generally comment on the nature of diplomatic discussions or agreements with third countries," Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said. "However, a statement that the United States has assured Yemen that it will transfer ... 70 detainees is inaccurate."
There are about 275 prisoners in the war on terrorism locked up in Guantanamo , and dozens have been identified as no longer posing a threat and can be returned to their native countries. But the United States has struggled to find governments willing to take them.
About 100 of the detainees are believed to be Yemeni. The Yemeni lawmaker, Muhammad Ali Abu- Luhoum , said dozens of them will soon come home. The United States has previously released about a dozen Yemenis.
The "Yemeni government received assurances from the US authorities about the extradition of 70 Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo ," Abu- Luhoum said.
Gordon said the Pentagon has been reluctant to return the Yemeni nationals because the government has not taken adequate steps to ensure they do not resume terrorist activities once they are released.
The Yemeni population at Guantanamo has not been significantly reduced for several reasons, including our concerns about the level of threat the detainees would pose to the international community and the track record of the Yemeni government in mitigating that threat," Gordon said.
"Until we have some level of confidence that the Yemeni government can take appropriate steps to mitigate the threat their nationals pose to the international community, our ability to transfer large numbers of Yemenis back will be limited," Gordon added.
Five returned detainees were released by Yemeni authorities while the rest were put on trial in Yemen for falsifying identification documents. None were charged with terrorism-related crime.
A team of US lawyers representing Yemeni nationals detained at Guantanamo appealed to the Yemeni government last May to take visible steps to secure the release of its citizens.