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US repatriates Guantanamo detainee to Algeria after almost 20 years

Demonstrators dressed in Guantanamo Bay prisoner uniforms march past Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2020, during a rally on "No War with Iran." (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators dressed in Guantanamo Bay prisoner uniforms march past Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2020, [BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]

The US has repatriated a Guantanamo Bay inmate to his native Algeria after being held in extrajudicial detention for almost two decades accused of being a member of Al-Qaeda.

The Department of Defense yesterday announced that Sufiyan Barhoumi was sent home as his detention at the detention facility was "no longer necessary" and that the Algerian government gave assurances that he would be treated humanely with security measures imposed to reduce future potential threats in future.

The Pentagon did not provide further details on what the security measures would entail.

Barhoumi was captured in 2002 along with a senior Al-Qaeda member at a safe house in Pakistan during the US-led war on terror and invasion of Afghanistan. Barhoumi was then taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba the same year.

READ: CIA tortured 9/11 detainee as prop to teach interrogation techniques

The US attempted to prosecute Barhoumi in 2008, but failed amid legal challenges to the initial version of the military commission system set up under former President George W. Bush. It was eventually determined that he was involved with various extremist groups, he was not considered to have been a member of Al-Qaeda nor affiliated with the Taliban, according to a review board which approved him for release in 2016.

In a statement after following news of his release, Barhoumi's attorney, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said "Our government owes Sufyian and his mother years of their lives back."

"I'm overjoyed that he will be home with his family, but I will dearly miss his constant good humour and empathy for the suffering of others in the utterly depressing environment of Guantánamo."

Towards the end of President Barack Obama's presidency in January 2017, a federal judge refused to intervene following the Pentagon's decision not to repatriate the detainee.

Barhoumi is the third Guantanamo detainee to be repatriated under the Biden administration. There are now 37 detainees at the prison, including 18 who are cleared for transfer. At its peak, there were almost 800 detainees. Despite promises to close down the notorious prison since the Obama administration, it remains open.

READ: US preparing to transfer first high-value Guantanamo detainee

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