Washington – US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he had advised President Donald Trump to send detainees from US wars to Guantanamo Bay Prison, which he deemed a “very fine place.”
He said that placing the prisoners in the wartime prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was much safer than detaining them in American jails, adding that the Defense, not the Justice Department, should handle this file.
He said, in an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: “There’s plenty of space. We are well equipped for it. It’s a perfect place for it. Eventually, this will be decided by the military rather than the Justice Department. But I see no legal problem whatsoever with doing that.”
Hewitt brought up the troubles of the military commissions system operating at Guantanamo, in which the death penalty case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others accused of conspiring in the September 11, 2001 attacks has been mired in years of pre-trial hearings with no actual trial yet in sight.
Hewitt observed that the commissions system “is not getting them to trial” and called it “kind of a scandal that no one has faced justice 15 years later.” He asked Sessions whether he expected to accelerate the process.
The attorney general reiterated his support for the idea of military prosecutions of al-Qaeda members. He also said it was time to think through “to what extent we’re going to use military commissions.”
As a senator, Sessions was a critic of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo prison and his refusal to bring any new captives to it.
He stated: “By now, we should have worked through all the legal complications that the Obama administration seemed to allow to linger and never get decided, so nothing ever happened. So it is time for us in the months to come to get this thing figured out and start using it in an effective way.”
Hewitt did not raise the question of whether the United States would seek to take custody of Abu Khaybar, who is suspected of being an al-Qaeda militant and was captured last fall in Yemen by another country, nor what should happen to terrorism suspects who are American citizens. Trump said during the campaign that he was “fine” with sending Americans to Guantanamo.
According to The New York Times, not much is known about Abu Khaybar except that he was a member of al-Qaeda for several years and that he operated in Sudan, then Somalia, and later Yemen.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that some inmates in Guantanamo were detained during the war in Afghanistan, holding Obama responsible for their imprisonment. The New York Times noted however that a large number of those who had returned from the war in Afghanistan were released during the term of former President George W. Bush.
In 2016, senior Republican officials held Obama responsible for the death of US soldiers in Afghanistan at the hands of former Guantanamo prisoners.
Republican Kelly Ayotte said that that there seems to be an organized effort by the Obama administration to prevent the American people from finding out the truth behind what happens to prisoners who were in Guantanamo.
The Washington Post said that at least 12 former inmates are fighting against US troops in Afghanistan. At least one soldier was killed at their hands.
Paul Lewis, who was tasked by Obama to be the US Department of Defense’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, had previously said that US troops in Afghanistan had faced, arrested and killed a number of former Guantanamo inmates, but he did not offer further details.