Former Guantanamo Chief Officer Urges Closure of Facility for US Security's Sake

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The Guantanamo Bay detention center should be shut down as soon as possible to better protect US national security and boost the United States' influence in the international community, the facility's former Commanding Officer retired Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert said in a statement on Wednesday.

"To safeguard our security and bolster our global influence, Guantanamo should be closed as soon as possible," Lehnert said.

US President Donald Trump announced during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night that he signed an executive order to keep the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba open.

Lehnert noted the move would further fuel propaganda by enemies of the United States and serve as a distraction to US allies while undermining US national interests.

A hooded demonstrator is seen at a protest calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in front of the White House on May 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International
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The retired general, who was the first commander of the now infamous facility, said US federal courts on the mainland were fully capable of handling complex international terrorism cases.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Lehnert deployed to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002 with the mission to construct and operate detention facilities for detainees belonging to the radical Taliban movement and the Al-Qaeda terrorist group (banned in Russia).

Meanwhile, US Senator Duane Feinstein said in a press release on Wednesday that Donald Trump was wrong to announce he was going to keep operating the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba despite a $5 billion cost so far.

"I strongly disagree with President Trump’s decision to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open," Feinstein said. "With a cost that has now topped $5 billion, keeping Guantanamo open is a drain on taxpayers and a recruiting tool for terrorists."

A hooded demonstrator is seen at a protest calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in front of the White House on May 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International
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Nearly 800 individuals had cycled through the prison, but now there were only 41, five of whom had been cleared for transfer, Feinstein pointed out. Holding prisoners without charge or trial for decades is a clear violation of due process and the rule of law, Feinstein maintained.

According to media reports, detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been held for indefinte periods without charge or trial, prompting criticism from human rights groups. The detention facility also gained worldwide notority after the emergence of evidence of widespread torture and abuse of inmates.

Former US President Barack Obama promised to close the detention facility but failed to fulfill his pledge. Trump has vowed to keep it open and bring in more captured terrorists.

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