WASHINGTON -- With days left in President Barack Obama's administration, the United States has sent 10 more lower-level detainees from the wartime prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Oman, and lawyers for two more who are on a list of those recommended for transfer are urgently asking a court to send them home, as well.
The government of Oman announced Monday that it had resettled the 10 men. They were from a list of those approved for transfer, many after about 15 years of detention without trial, but who remained stranded because they come from unstable countries such as Yemen. Oman, which has a custodial rehabilitation program for Islamist extremists, previously took in 20 detainees, all Yemenis.
A brief announcement from the Omani News Agency in Muscat said Sultan Qaboos Bin Said agreed to take in the men "in consideration to their humanitarian situation." It described their status there as in "temporary residence."
There was no immediate explanation of the reference to their stay being temporary. But U.S. diplomats have in the past negotiated transfers to security arrangements that withhold travel documents from the freed captives for a specific time period, in some instances two years.
Monday's transfer makes Oman the largest Guantanamo resettlement nation.
The Pentagon had not yet formally announced the transfer, but a defense official confirmed that 10 prisoners had been transferred to Oman. Neither Oman nor the official provided the identities of the 10 men who were sent there.
The transfers reduced the remaining population at the prison to 45. Nine of those men are approved for transfer to a country that is willing and able to provide security assurances.
Saudi Arabia also resettled four detainees earlier this month, and several more transfers, including to the United Arab Emirates, another to Saudi Arabia and possibly one to Italy are expected in the coming days, based on notifications that the secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, sent to Congress in December.
A federal statute generally requires that the government tell lawmakers that a transfer is coming at least 30 days before it is carried out.
Lawyers for two men who are on the transfer list but are set to be left behind are trying to get their clients out through federal court orders. President-elect Donald Trump has called for a halt to any more transfers.
The men -- an Algerian named Sufyian Barhoumi and a Moroccan named Abdul Latif Nasir -- both come from countries that the government has deemed stable enough for repatriations of other detainees in the past. Both were added to the transfer list last year by a parole-like board, but Carter did not sign off on a repatriation arrangement for them by the deadline.
On Friday, however, lawyers for the two men filed an "emergency motion" before two judges in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the judges should order their release without any delay as a matter of habeas corpus, lest their clients be imprisoned for at least another four years "because of administrative delays in filing paperwork."
Judge Rosemary Collyer, who is overseeing the Algerian's case, ordered the government to respond to the motion by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and in the meantime, she ordered, the government "should begin to make preparations in the event" she granted the motion "as a matter of equity" -- presumably a reference to arranging for a flight to transfer him immediately.
Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the judge overseeing the Moroccan's case, on Monday ordered the government to respond to it by noon Wednesday.
If the Obama administration's Justice Department decides not to fight the requests and one or both judges do issue a transfer order, it will raise the question of whether the executive branch may carry out such a transfer without telling Congress and waiting 30 days first -- by which time the Trump administration will have taken over.
Congress has enacted different versions of the waiting period law. The 2012 intelligence authorization act, for example, included transfers undertaken pursuant to a judicial order in the required waiting period. But several recent defense authorization acts exempted judicially ordered transfers.
Information for this article was contributed by Charlie Savage of The New York Times; and by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.
A Section on 01/17/2017