By Mohamed Ghobari
ADEN – The United Arab Emirates has sent 12 Yemenis, initially detained at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison, to Yemen where they are expected to be released, a local official and a lawyer said on Thursday.
The men were part of a group of 18 Yemenis and one Russian who were transferred from Guantanamo Bay between 2015 and 2017 to the UAE, where they remained in detention.
They had originally been seized in Afghanistan and Pakistan following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. The first six were repatriated to Yemen and released in July.
The Yemenis were all held for over a decade without charge or trial.
An Emirati military plane carrying the 12 landed in al-Mukalla in the Yemeni southern province of Hadhramout on Wednesday, a Yemeni government official said.
The Emirati government did not respond to a request for comment.
Abdulrahman Barman, a lawyer of the detainees, said the Yemeni government contacted the detainees’ families and asked them to prepare for the release of their relatives at al-Rayan military base.
Rayan air base has been under the control of the UAE‘s military since 2015, when the Gulf state and Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen to back the government against the Houthi movement.
Barman said the six released in July had received some money from the Emirati and Yemeni governments.
The United Nations and rights groups have urged Abu Dhabi and Washington to stop the forced repatriation of detainees to their homelands, where they could face further torture and detention.
UN rights experts said last year the 18 detainees were “allegedly forced to sign documents consenting to their repatriation” or remain indefinitely in Emirati detention.
Their transfer to Gulf states was part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention centre that has drawn international condemnation.