U. S. officials have transferred five prisoners, four of whom are Yemenis, from Guantanamo Bay to Europe as part of a renewed effort to close the detention center on the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
The Pentagon announced Thursday that three Yemenis were sent to Georgia and that the other Yemeni and a Tunisian were moved to Slovakia, reducing the number of detainees at the prison to 143.
This is the first time any Yemeni has been transferred from the prison since 2010. More than half of the remaining detainees are from Yemen.
President Barack Obama vowed to close the detention center at Guantanamo when he took office in 2009. But his efforts were thwarted by Congress, which prohibited sending any prisoner to the U.S. for any reason and imposed restrictions that brought releases to a halt.
Congress eased the restrictions last December.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented one of the Yemenis, Abd Al Hakim Ghalib Ahmad Alhag, criticized the Obama administration's refusal to release other Yemeni detainees. It said 54 of them had already been approved for transfer.
"As we welcome Mr. Alhag's resettlement, we are reminded
that the remaining Yemeni men should be sent home or resettled without further delay," Wells Dixon, CCR senior attorney, said in a statement.
Last week, the Republican congressman who heads the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Buck McKeon of California, cited an increase in Pentagon notifications of upcoming transfers of detainees out of Guantanamo.
He did not quantify them but, in a sign of continued pressure from Congress to halt releases, called the remaining detainees "the worst of the worst" and pointed to concerns that former Guantanamo detainees might join Islamic State fighters who seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.
Some material for this report came from Reuters.