US sends home Algerian man held in Guantanamo for nearly 20 years

WASHINGTON — An Algerian man imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay detention center for nearly 20 years has been released and returned to his native country.

The Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that Sufiyan Barhoumi had been repatriated with the assurance of the Algerian government that he would be treated humanely there and that security measures would be imposed to reduce the risk that he could pose a threat to the ‘to come up.

The Pentagon did not provide details of those security measures, which could include travel restrictions.

Barhoumi was captured in Pakistan and taken to the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. The US eventually determined that he was involved with various extremist groups but was not a member of al-Qaeda or of the Taliban, according to a report by a prison review board that approved his release in 2016.

US authorities tried to prosecute Barhoumi, but the effort failed amid legal challenges to the initial version of the military commission system put in place under President George W. Bush.

In the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency in January 2017, a federal judge in Washington declined to intervene in the Pentagon’s decision not to repatriate Barhoumi, whose lawyer said he expected his client was released and that the prisoner’s family had begun to prepare for his return, including buying him a car and a small restaurant to operate.

The Justice Department said then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter rejected Barhoumi’s release on January 12, 2017, “based on various substantive concerns, shared by multiple agencies,” without going into in details.

The prisoner resettlement effort has languished under President Donald Trump. The Biden administration is again trying to reduce the number of men held at Guantanamo as part of a broader effort to close the facility.

Barhoumi’s release brings the total held at the US base in Cuba to 37 men, including 18 who have been deemed eligible for repatriation or resettlement in a third country.

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