He was captured in 2002 in a joint U.S.-Pakistani intelligence services raid in Karachi, Pakistan, and held for about four months by the Central Intelligence Agency in early 2004, before his transfer to Guantánamo Bay.
As early as 2002, while he was in the custody of a foreign government, Mr. al-Hajj told interrogators about a Qaeda courier known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, a shadowy character whom the United States in 2011 tracked to find and kill Osama bin Laden, according to a sweeping Senate study of the C.I.A. interrogation program.
Mr. al-Hela, who also never faced charges, was considered a prominent member of a Yemeni national security force who was suspected of having ties to “extremist groups.” U.S. military intelligence reports described him as knowledgeable about attacks from Yemen on Western targets before he was captured in Cairo in 2002 and turned over to the custody of the C.I.A.
His case is among the better known of current detainees because a federal appeals court ruled in September that, as a detainee at Guantánamo, he was not entitled to the protections of due process in a challenge to the lawfulness of his detention. That decision is under appeal, and his lawyer, Beth D. Jacob, said his team would continue to fight that decision because a court release order carries more weight than a review board recommendation to arrange a transfer.
In recommending the transfers, the Periodic Review Board said each man “presents some level of threat in light of his past activities.”
Yemenis have for years been among the more difficult detainees to transfer from Guantánamo, because the United States considers that nation, which has a potent Qaeda franchise, to be too unstable to help resettle and track the detainees. Ms. Jacob said both men should be sent to a country that “will respect their human rights, give them an opportunity to recover from what has been done to them by the United States in the past two decades, and build a life.”