The Pentagon just shipped two Gitmo detainees to the Balkans Thursday, but in a bizarre turn, one detainee declined to leave the facility, preferring the comfort of his cell instead.
That detainee, Mohammad Bwazir, was a Yemeni prisoner, who essentially refused release because he didn’t want to be sent to a country where he has no family, The Miami Herald reports. Congress has blocked the Obama administration, the Pentagon has pushed back on White House Gitmo priorities and now a detainee himself seemingly doesn’t want Obama to bring down the total number of detainees left to 90. Bwazir refused the transfer at the last minute.
The name of country in the Balkans Bwazir was supposed to go has not been released, but Bwazir’s lawyer, John Chandler, said it’s a country “I’d go to in a heartbeat.”
“He’s been in Guantánamo so long that he was terrified about going to a country other than one where he had family,” Chandler told the Miami Herald.
Bwazir, who is known for hunger strikes, did not want to go to the Balkans, even though he has been held for 14 years, but also understood that he couldn’t just head to war-torn Yemen. Instead, Bwazir requested the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia or Indonesia. His request was denied. Despite trying to encourage Bwazir for months, Chandler was unable to persuade the detainee to leave the facility.
The State Department did not release the name of the country Bwazir could have gone to, either, owing to “sensitive diplomatic discussions.” Still, Ian Moss, chief of staff to the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, told The Miami Herald that Bwazir is still approved for transfer.
Moss did not provide a timeline for Bwazir’s expected transfer.
The White House has recently sped up the pace of transfers from the facility to catch up with the list of 17 detainees approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December. Two detainee transfers this week brings the total prison population down to 91. There are no more detainees currently on the “approved and pending” list. To empty the prison, the White House has said that it is working on a plan to present to Congress on how exactly hardened detainees would be sent to the U.S. for indefinite detention. The detainees would be classified as military prisoners.
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