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U.S. To Release One Yemeni Detainee — But Where?

The Department of Justice announced Monday that it would release one Yemeni detainee from Guantanamo Bay — a 38-year-old doctor picked up in Afghanistan and imprisoned without charge since 2002.

Not surprisingly, the administration won’t say just where Ayman Saeed Batarfi will go.

That may be because, as I reported here, the United States is struggling to find a way to deal with almost 100 Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and with nowhere to go — even if they’ve already been cleared for release.

The U.S. government apparently doesn’t trust the assurances it’s received from the president of Yemen that he will “rehabilitate” Guantanamo returnees at a “camp” he’ll design, but which hasn’t actually been built yet. Worries that some of those former prisoners might join up with al-Qaeda upon their return to Yemen, has stymied plans for their release. The terrorist organization is a growing presence in Yemen.

So exactly when Dr. Batarfi will really get out of Gitmo, or where he’ll get to go, remains unclear.

“The United States will initiate the appropriate diplomatic process, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, to facilitate (Batarfi’s) prompt transfer from Guantanamo Bay to an appropriate destination country,” the Justice Department said in a court filing Monday.

The Bush administration had accused Batarfi of being the chief medical adviser for a group linked to al-Qaeda, and early on claimed he took part in an anthrax program. It’s since dropped those claims. Batarfi, meanwhile, has said that he went to Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission.

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