Two of the 40 prisoners still held at the U.S. military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, cannot leave after they refused to cooperate with authorities arranging their release when former President Barack Obama was in office, the Miami Herald learned from the facility’s commander this week.
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported that the two detainees missed their chance to leave because U.S. President Donald Trump has put the brakes on most prisoner releases.
President Trump, who vowed to “load up” the detention center commonly known as Gitmo with newly captured prisoners while campaigning, has only released one prisoner since taking office in January 2017.
Rear Adm. John Ring, the commander at Gitmo, reportedly revealed the status of the two detainees who cannot leave while speaking to reporters at the detention center.
He told reporters this week, “Two of them had an opportunity to get on an airplane and chose not to go. So how bad could it be here?”
Ring indicated that neither the Pentagon did not order the prison to send guards to force either captive out of his cell “so we didn’t.”
The Miami Herald noted on Wednesday:
Guantánamo today has 40 prisoners, five cleared during the Obama administration. But a combination of military bureaucracy and their refusal to cooperate have left them there, at an annual cost of $11.1 million per prisoner based on 2015 operating costs.
All five are held in a prison complex for low-value detainees with about 20 long-held prisoners. There, captives mostly live in four communal cell blocks where they can share meals and prayers, have art and horticulture classes and play video games.
The two detainees who are stuck at Gitmo — Tunisian Ridah bin Salah al Yazidi, 53, and Muideen Adeen al Sattar, 44, a stateless Rohingya — are among the five prisoners cleared for release by the Obama administration.
U.S. troops reportedly brought both prisoners to Guantánamo in 2002 soon after the prison opened. When Obama took office in 2009, his administration cleared Yazidi and Sattar for resettlement or repatriation.
However, they “refused to cooperate with U.S. efforts to send them to other nations,” the Herald reported.
The Herald quotes Obama-era officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying some of the detainees refused to leave because of mental problems.
“The officials said some of the prisoners didn’t cooperate with release efforts because they’re mentally ill. One of the two men refused to leave his prison block to discuss options for departing prison life with Pentagon, State Department or foreign envoys seeking to assist in their release, they said,” the Herald found. “Another who didn’t want to go refused to give enough information to U.S. officials so the International Red Cross could arrange a travel document, said the prison’s cultural adviser, who goes by Zaki.”
President Obama, who vowed to shut down Gitmo, released about 200 captives, reducing the prison population to 41.
The facility still holds 40 prisoners, including one convicted war criminal serving a life sentence, 26 “forever prisoners” deemed too dangerous to release, and the five men cleared for release by an Obama administration parole-style board.