Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, is calling for the repatriation of low-level detainees from Yemen currently held at Guantanamo Bay.
Her move comes just as scores of inmates at the prison continue a hunger strike to protest their detention.
Fifty-six of the 86 detainees approved for transfer more than three years ago are said to be from Yemen, but President Barack Obama halted any further transfers to that country after the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by a Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida on Dec. 25, 2009.
In a letter to President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, the California senator said that although she had supported his ban then, she thought it was now time to look at whether Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi , a staunch opponent of the terrorist group, could provide sufficient security guarantees to warrant sending the Yemenis back, reports The New York Times
Although al-Qaida “still has a strong presence in Yemen, I believe it would be prudent to revisit the decision to halt transfers to Yemen and assess whether President Hadi’s government with appropriate assistance, would be able to securely hold detainees in Sana,” wrote Feinstein.
The White House did not immediately respond to the letter, according to the Times, which noted that Feinstein also urged Obama to resume the administration’s efforts to close GITMO.
The president vowed to shutter the facility when he took office in 2009, but Congress blocked his plan to transfer prisoners to a maximum security prison in the U.S. In January 2011.
Congress also restricted transfers to other countries posing a security threat, although it later authorized the White House to waive those restrictions on a case-by-case basis.
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