WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration said on Monday that it had transferred its first detainee from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a Moroccan man who had been imprisoned since 2002, bringing the population at the facility down to 39.
Set up to house foreign suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the prison came to symbolize the excesses of the US “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods critics say amounted to torture.
While Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House, Biden has vowed to close it.
Abdul Latif Nasir, 56, was repatriated to Morocco. He had been cleared for release in 2016.
“The (Biden) administration is dedicated to following a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population of the Guantanamo facility while also safeguarding the security of the United States and its allies,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Morocco’s General Prosecutor said in a statement that Nasser would be investigated for suspected involvement in terrorist acts and a police source said he had been taken into custody in Casablanca.
More than a dozen Moroccans have been held at Guantanamo Bay and those repatriated have faced investigation and trial.
One, Ibrahim Benchekroun, was jailed for six years after being repatriated in 2005 and died in 2014 in Syria where he had traveled to join a militant group.
Most of the prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay have been held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.