Saudi Will 'Soon' Become First Gitmo Release Under Trump Administration
ARLINGTON, Va. -- A Guantanamo inmate who has been enjoying his own PlayStation 3, strawberry Oreos and Netflix re-runs of "Arrested Development" will soon become the first detainee transferred out of the prison camp under the Trump administration, the Pentagon confirmed today.
Ahmed al-Darbi, 43, a Saudi citizen, was arrested traveling through Azerbaijan in June 2002 and held for his knowledge of the USS Cole bombing and other al-Qaeda maritime attack plans. Four years ago, al-Darbi pleaded guilty to planning a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker. Under the Obama administration, he struck a deal to be released to a rehabilitation program back home in Saudi Arabia this past Tuesday.
Defense Secretary James Mattis needs to sign off on the transfer. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters today that "with respect to al-Darbi, we anticipate the transfer soon."
"But it is important to understand that February 20th was the beginning, per his plea agreement, that it was after four years he had served. This decision is not a unilateral decision. This is -- the State Department has a piece of this, and we're working with our Saudi counterparts," White said. "So, while we are working it, it's still something that's in discussions, and we hope to solve it relatively soon."
During a hearing earlier this month, it was revealed that al-Darbi -- who began his stay at Gitmo as a feces-throwing belligerent inmate -- now, as a cooperating witness, has his own cottage-type accommodations including a kitchen stocked with halal meat and a Magic Bullet blender, a veggie garden, a laptop computer with Rosetta Stone to learn English, an exercise bike, Under Armour and Nike workout gear, Turkish coffee, and art supplies. He's also been allowed to make phone calls to his wife and kids.
Just before his State of the Union speech last month, President Trump signed an order directing Mattis to review the nation's military detention policies and keep Guantanamo open.
"I am also asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down," Trump said.
White said today that "currently there are no plans to move anyone to Guantanamo," and that Pentagon staff are still working on recommendations regarding detainee policy.