PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Sudanese man who in 2011 pleaded guilty before a military commission at Guantand#225;namo Bay, Cuba, to charges of conspiracy and providing military support to terrorism has finished the portion of his sentence he was required to serve and will be sent home soon, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
The transfer of the prisoner, Noor Uthman Mohammed, had been in doubt because Congress last year tightened a law barring the transfer of any detainee to a nation that has been designated a state sponsor of terror, like Sudan. The change removed an exception for transfers of prisoners who had reached plea agreements with military commission prosecutors.
The prospect that Mr. Noor — as he prefers to be called — would not be released hadandnbsp;threatened to undermine the ability of military prosecutorsandnbsp;to persuade detainees to plead guilty and serve as potential witnesses in more important cases. Mr. Noor pleaded guilty in early 2011 as part of a deal to serve an additional 34 months at Guantand#225;namo on top of the more than eight years he had already been there.
But the Obama administration decided it was free to repatriate Mr. Noor because Congress later resurrected the older version of the transfer restrictions — which contained the plea agreement exception — when it passed continuing resolutions to keep financing the military in line with earlier budget bills.
“Although we will not discuss specific dates or times of transfers due to operational security and diplomatic reasons, the United States intends to transfer him as soon as practicable after the completion of his sentence of confinement,” said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman.
His departure would leave 163 detainees at the prison.
Howard Cabot, a lawyer for Mr. Noor, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and who has been a proponent of transfer restrictions for Guantand#225;namo detainees, had no immediate comment.
Mr. Cabot filed a motion before a military commissions judge in the spring asking him to compel the Pentagon official who overseas the military commissions system to officially approve the final disposition of his case, which was pending even though the plea deal had been struck two years earlier.
“As a matter of contract law and basic fairness, the plea agreement between Noor and the government should be enforced,” the motion said.
The judge demurred, saying he no longer had jurisdiction over the matter. But the official overseeing the tribunals system, Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, formally pronounced last month that Mr. Noor had completed the time he was required to serve.
Inandnbsp;a documentandnbsp;dated Nov. 1, and released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, Mr. Oostburg Sanz wrote that “the interests of justice warrant the accused being afforded the benefit of the sentencing limitation provided for” in the pretrial agreement.
A document Mr. Noor signed as part of the plea agreement states that he left Sudan in 1994 and went to Afghanistan, where he underwent paramilitary training at a Qaeda camp known as Khalden. He eventually became a trainer and camp administrator. Later, he fled to a safe house in Pakistan linked to Abu Zubaydah, who is accused of helping maintain terrorist networks.
Mr. Noor said he was not a Qaeda member, and he has not been linked to any specific terrorist operation.
In another legal complication, the validity of material support for terrorism and conspiracy charges have since been called into question in rulings by the Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, which said the charges were not recognized as war crimes under international law and so could not be brought in the tribunal system.
That legal question is under appeal, and Mr. Oostburg Sanz said he would defer a final judgment on the validity of Mr. Noor’s agreement to plead guilty to those charges until it is resolved. But he said Mr. Noor should still benefit from the time limits set forth in the agreement.
Also on Tuesday, Theandnbsp;Miami Herald reportedandnbsp;that the United States Southern Command had decided to no longer say how many Guantand#225;namo detainees were on a hunger strike. This year, there was a hunger strike involving the majority of the inmates; about a dozen prisoners have continued to refuse to eat.