WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the Obama administration Tuesday to send two Iraqi nationals arrested recently in Bowling Green to the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The two were charged with helping to plot attacks on U.S. troops.
"Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won't be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
"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. So today I'm calling on the administration to change course — and get these men out of Kentucky."
Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, were indicted recently for plotting to send sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, explosives and money back to their home country to be used in attacks on U.S. troops. The men pleaded not guilty.
McConnell has been a strident and vocal critic of the administration's efforts, though stymied, to close the Guantánamo Bay prison.
"I can say with certainty that Kentuckians don't want foreign fighters who've bragged about killing and maiming U.S. soldiers in a combat theater treated like common criminals in their own back yards," McConnell said.
The Department of Justice countered Tuesday that prosecuting the two men in federal court is the most proven method for keeping the country safe.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, hundreds of defendants have been convicted in the federal court system of terrorism or terrorism-related violations, said Dean Boyd, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman.
In none of these cases has a judicial district suffered retaliatory attacks, Boyd said. There also has never been a military-commission prosecution of a terror suspect arrested on American soil, he said.
"As the senator acknowledged, everyone involved in this investigation clearly did their jobs and did them well. The successful investigation, arrests, and interrogation in this case show the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement authorities in bringing terrorists to justice and preventing them from harming the American people," Boyd said. "Abandoning those proven methods would do nothing but risk the safety of the American people."
Hammadi's attorney, Jim Earhart, told The Associated Press that both men were legally in the country and should be afforded the same rights as anyone else legally in the United States.
"There simply is no exception to that, nor do we expect one for our citizens overseas," Earhart said. "It's a two-way street. You've got to be careful when you go there."