Two Saudi Prisoners Sent Home From Guantánamo

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from The New York Times,

Two Saudi men held by the United States without trial for nearly 12 years at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have been repatriated, the Pentagon said Monday.

In addition, a Sudanese news agency reported that its government expects the last two Sudanese nationals at Guantánamo to be flown on an American aircraft to Khartoum, arriving by Wednesday morning. If those transfers take place, they and the just-completed Saudi transfers would reduce the detainee population to 158.

The moves showed that the Obama administration’s recent push to winnow the population of lower-level detainees, which stagnated after restrictions were imposed by Congress, appears to be gaining momentum. Over the summer, President Obama appointed new envoys — Clifford Sloan at the State Department and Paul M. Lewis at the Pentagon — to revitalize the effort.

“The U.S. has made real progress in responsibly transferring Guantánamo detainees despite the burdensome legislative restrictions that have impeded our efforts,” Mr. Lewis said in a statement. “In keeping with the charge the president has given us, Cliff Sloan and I are committed to facilitating additional responsible transfers to the maximum extent possible as we work to reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the facility.”

Congress is on the cusp of easing the Pentagon’s ability to transfer detainees to countries other than the United States; the provision is part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The House and the Senate have both agreed on a final version of the bill, which the House has already approved.

Both men had been recommended for transfer by a national security task force in 2009. The bulk of the detainees on that list are from Yemen, where troubled security conditions have discouraged both the Bush and the Obama administrations from repatriating even low-level detainees.

One of the two Sudanese detainees who is apparently being transferred on Tuesday is Noor Uthman Mohammed, who in early 2011 pleaded guilty to terrorism-related offenses before a military commission and has served the required portion of his sentence as part of that deal with prosecutors.

The other Sudanese man is Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris, who was ordered freed by a judge in October after the Obama administration did not oppose a petition by his lawyers asking for his release on the grounds that his “severe long-term mental illness and physical illness” meant he posed no threat.

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