Pentagon Transfers Pair of Guantanamo Prisoners to Serbia

(The Washington Post) -

The United States has transferred to Serbia two detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said Monday, as the Obama administration seeks to move prisoners out of the facility as quickly as possible.

Prisoners Muhammadi Davlatov, a native of what is now Tajikistan, and Yemeni Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi were transferred to the government of Serbia, the Pentagon said in a statement.

It is the first time that Serbia has accepted prisoners from the military facility at Guantanamo Bay. The announcement follows the transfer of another Yemeni man, Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman, to Italy over the weekend.

According to 2008 military documents made public by WikiLeaks, the 37-year-old Davlatov has been in U.S. custody since January 2002. Over the years, lawyers representing Davlatov filed two habeas corpus petitions on behalf of the prisoner, who had fought to ensure he would not be returned to Tajikistan, where he feared he would be abused.

Matthew O’Hara, a Chicago attorney who has represented Davlatov, said his client had become stateless after Tajikistan revoked his citizenship. Davlatov is expected to apply for asylum in Serbia, O’Hara said.

Dayfi, who was born in 1979, was believed to have been part of a group of fighters who surrendered in northern Afghanistan in late 2001 and were at the site of a deadly prison uprising in the city of Mazar-e Sharif, according to the same leaked documents. Dayfi has been in U.S. custody since December 2001.

Like most of the inmates at Guantanamo, neither man has ever been charged with a crime.

The latest transfers are likely to intensify congressional concerns about the Obama administration’s plans to resettle scores of detainees before year’s end.

Officials hope that releasing detainees deemed to pose no major security risk will put the administration closer to President Barack Obama’s goal of shutting the prison before he steps down in early 2017.

But given consistent opposition in Congress, it appears unlikely that Obama will be able to make good on his promise of closing Guantanamo.

Last week, lawmakers aired their concerns about transfers, which they say endanger U.S. security, in a hearing that included discussion of a former inmate who authorities are searching for in South America.

Legislation now being considered by Congress would make it harder for the Obama administration to continue moving prisoners overseas.

There are now 76 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay.