The weekend before Christmas, 12 prisoners were released from Guantánamo. In two previous articles, I told the stories of six of these men — two Somalis and four Afghans — and in this final article I look at the stories of the six Yemenis who were also released. These releases were enormously important, because Yemenis make up nearly half of the remaining 198 prisoners in Guantánamo, and until these six men were repatriated, only 16 Yemenis had been freed from Guantánamo throughout the prison’s long history.
Back in October, when the Obama administration’s interagency Task Force announced that it had cleared 75 prisoners for release — and explained that this figure included 26 Yemenis — I took exception to the administration’s unwillingness to release any of the Yemenis. This was revealed in the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni whose release had been ordered in May by a District Court judge, who had granted his habeas corpus petition. Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the government had based its case on unreliable allegations made by other prisoners who were tortured, coerced, bribed or suffering from mental health issues, and a “mosaic” of intelligence, purporting to rise to the level of evidence, which actually relied, to an intolerable degree, on second- or third-hand hearsay, guilt by association and unsupportable suppositions.