Breaking news: Two Yemenis To Be Sent To Spain From Guantánamo

8.9.09

The flag of SpainFrom Spain, via my journalist friend Carlos Sardiña Galache (who provided invaluable help with my recent article about Judge Baltasar Garzón) comes the breaking news that Cadena SER, the main Spanish radio station, has just announced that the Spanish government has agreed to accept two Guantánamo prisoners, who, it is stated, will arrive in the country in October or November. According to Cadena SER, both men are Yemenis, seized in Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of October 2001, although no other information is available at present, beyond an explanation that, according to the government, they didn’t have ties with al-Qaeda, but “had ties with the Taliban.”

It was also announced that neither man will enjoy the benefits of resettlement that were recently extended to two former Guantánamo prisoners in Portugal. Cadena SER stated that they will not be considered as political refugees but as immigrants, and that they will be kept under surveillance by the police and will not be granted freedom of movement, even within Spain’s borders — although it is difficult to see how such an expensive and futile policy can be maintained, and it is to be hoped, instead, that this statement is designed to reassure critics, within both the United States and Spain, that men held without charge or trial for nearly eight years, and permanently stamped with the taint of Guantánamo, will continue to be dealt with in a robust manner.

This sounds like a better deal than remaining in Guantánamo, of course, but if confirmed it suggests that the Obama administration is beginning to give up on hopes of concluding a satisfactory repatriation and rehabilitation plan with Yemen for the nearly 100 Yemeni prisoners still in Guantánamo (who make up nearly half of the remaining population), and if this is the case, then Obama has a colossal logistical problem on his hands, with just four months to go until his deadline for closing Guantánamo, for which the Spanish government’s acceptance of just two prisoners is little more than a drop in the ocean.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

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