[JURIST] A White House spokesperson said Tuesday that the US government will suspend transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen [JURIST news archives]. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the announcement at his daily briefing [transcript] amid increasing political pressure not to transfer any more detainees to Yemen after it was revealed that the man who attempted to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last month received al Qaeda training in Yemen. Gibbs said:
[O]ne of the very first things that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used as a recruiting tool was the existence of Guantanamo Bay. … [W]e are not going to make decisions about transfers that – to a country like Yemen that would – that they're not capable of handling. And I think that, while we remain committed to closing the facility, the determination has been made that right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea.
Most of the nearly 200 detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many detainees have been transferred back to Yemen. Earlier Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the detention [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee Ghaleb Nassar Al-Bihani [NYT materials], ruling that he can remain in US custody, but, last month, the US government transferred six detainees [JURIST report] back to Yemen. Also last month, a federal judge granted Yemeni detainee Saeed Hatim's petition for habeas corpus, ordering his release [JURIST report].
5:00 PM ET – US President Barack Obama confirmed [transcript] that the US will suspend transfers of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen:
With respect to Yemen in particular, there's an ongoing security situation which we have been confronting for some time, along with our Yemeni partner. Given the unsettled situation, I've spoken to the Attorney General and we've agreed that we will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time.
Despite this announcement, Obama renewed his pledge to close the Guantanamo prison facility.