Four detainees from Guantanamo Bay military prison will be transferred to Saudi Arabia in the next 24 hours, US officials said on Wednesday, 4 January. It is reportedly President Barack Obama's final push to whittle down the inmate population inside the prison.
According to Reuters, the Obama administration aims to transfer at least 19 inmates to four countries including Italy, Oman and the United Arab Emirates before Donald Trump assumes office on 20 January. If these transfers go as planned, only 40 inmates will remain at the controversial facility.
The incoming president pledged to keep the facility open and "load it up with some bad dudes". On Tuesday, Trump said all the prisoners at Guantanamo should remain in spite of the lengthy inter-agency reviews that declared them to be eligible to leave.
He tweeted saying "There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."
The Obama administration said the objections by Trump are unfounded and added that the transfers would continue until Trump assumes office. "We expect that there will be more transfers. We do not comment on the progress of individual detainee transfers until they are completed," White House spokesperson Emily Horne said.
In December, the Obama administration also notified Congress of its intention to make the final transfers. The prisoners being transferred have been announced in parole-style hearings to be safe for repatriation or resettlement in other countries.
The nationalities of the prisoners being transferred to Saudi Arabia are unclear. In April 2016, Riyadh accepted nine Yemeni inmates as a part of the deal negotiated with Washington. Among the 59 prisoners present before the transfers, 10 face charges in military commissions and about 14 are considered to be too dangerous to release.
Obama, who pledged that he would shut down the facility when he took office in 2009, has managed to shrink the number down. He also faced roadblocks from Republicans in Congress, which prevented him from transferring the inmates to the US mainland. Officials also said that Obama has no intention of using executive orders to shut the facility down before leaving office.