[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Saturday announced the repatriation [press release] of four Guantanamo Bay detainees to Afghanistan. The prisoners, Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir, were released after a review of their cases. Although originally detained on suspicion of being associated with groups such as the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, they had been cleared for transfer for quite some time. They were considered “low-level detainees” and not security risks in their home country. With the release, the population of Guantanamo has been reduced to only 132 prisoners, with an additional unspecified number scheduled to be released in the upcoming weeks.
The release of the four men is part of a large scale effort [JURIST backgrounder] by the Obama administration to close Guantanamo Bay, despite restrictions in the latest defense spending bill [JURIST report]. Earlier this month the Pentagon announced the transfer [JURIST report] of six detainees from Guantanamo to Uruguay. This move is the result of a 2009 Executive Order issued by President Barack Obama instructing the Guantanamo Bay Review Force to review these cases. In November five detainees were released [JURIST report] to their respective home countries of Georgia and Slovakia. Also in November the Pentagon announced the the release [JURIST report] of Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda from the detention facilities after nearly 13 years of imprisonment without a trial. In June the final known US prisoner of war prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl was released into US custody [JURIST report] in exchange for five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.