WASHINGTON — The US Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, called Tuesday for two Iraqi nationals facing terrorism charges in his home state to be shipped to the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
“Get these men out of Kentucky. Send them to Guantanamo where they belong. Get these terrorists out of the civilian system and out of our backyards and give them the justice they deserve,” said the Republican minority leader.
Waad Ramadan Alwan and his cousin Mohanad Shareef Hammadi have pleaded not guilty to 23 terrorism charges, but could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The two men were arrested after a lengthy and elaborate sting operation in which they allegedly schemed to ship missiles, guns and money to their home country for use in attacks on US troops, according to the US Justice Department.
McConnell, a frequent and forceful critic of President Barack Obama’s stalled efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, said the two suspects “are foreign fighters — unlawful enemy combatants who should be treated as such.”
“Sending them to Gitmo is the only way to ensure that they will not enjoy all the rights and privileges of US citizens. Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won’t be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky,” he said.
“Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can prevent Kentuckians from having to cover the cost and having to deal with the disturbances and disruptions that would come with a civilian trial. And sending them to Gitmo is the best way to ensure that they get what they deserve,” he said.
The case raised questions about the US government’s screening practices given that Alwan’s fingerprints were found on an unexploded roadside bomb in Iraq and registered in a Department of Defense database long before he was granted refugee status.
The United States has since identified and corrected “specific gaps” in the vetting process and has rescreened refugee applicants, a Department of Homeland security official who declined to be named said after Alwan’s arrest.