MIAMI >> Five prisoners have been released from Guantanamo Bay as part of a renewed effort to close the detention center on the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, officials said Thursday.
Three men were sent to Georgia and two to Slovakia for resettlement. They were among dozens of low-level prisoners at Guantanamo who were determined to no longer pose a threat by an administration task force in 2009.
Their release brings the total prison population to 143, about 100 fewer than when President Barack Obama took office pledging to close the detention center.
Obama’s vow to close Guantanamo was thwarted by Congress, which prohibited sending any prisoner to the U.S. for any reason and imposed restrictions that brought releases to a halt.
Congress eased the restrictions in December, and releases have resumed. U.S. State Department envoy Clifford Sloan has been trying to persuade countries to accept prisoners and he praised Georgia and Slovakia for their assistance.
"We are very grateful to our partners for these generous humanitarian gestures," Sloan said. "We appreciate the strong support we are receiving from our friends and allies around the globe."
Georgia took three prisoners from Guantanamo in 2010. Slovakia has now taken a total of eight men from Guantanamo.
One of the men sent to Georgia was Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim, the first prisoner from Yemen to be released since 2010. Yemenis make up the majority of men cleared for release because the U.S. is reluctant to send prisoners to the unstable country.
"The remaining Yemeni men should be sent home or resettled without further delay," said Wells Dixon, a lawyer for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.
The Pentagon identified the other two resettled in Georgia as Salah Mohammed Salih Al-Dhabi and Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani. The two sent to Slovakia were Hashim Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti and Husayn Salim Muhammad Al-Mutari Yafai.
There are now 74 prisoners at Guantanamo cleared and awaiting resettlement. Thirty-six have been designated for detention without charge. There are also 23 slated for prosecution and 10 either facing trial by military commission or have been convicted or sentenced.