[JURIST] US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] said Wednesday that the US is considering sending Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation as part of the efforts to close the prison facility. Gates told reporters [Reuters report] in Saudi Arabia that while no official decisions have been made, he has been impressed with the country's rehabilitation program. Gates spoke after meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. Many of the 241 inmates still at Guantanamo are Yemeni nationals who were captured after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The US is reluctant to return the detainees to Yemen for fear that they would rejoin terrorist groups.
In January, a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] said that the US would not change its policy [JURIST report] on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Saudi Arabia, despite reports that two former prisoners have joined al Qaeda in Yemen. A US counterterrorism official had confirmed that two of the nine alumni of the Saudi rehabilitation program who were arrested [NYT report] were in fact former Guantanamo prisoners, but this revelation was unlikely to affect the new policy of transferring detainees to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation. The Saudi program, an effort to deprogram Islamic extremism, was designed with input from psychiatrists, sociologists, and Muslim clerics. The Saudi Minister of Interior [official website] reports that 218 men have completed the program, with only nine being arrested again.