U.S. Sends Home Algerian Held Nearly 20 Years at Guantanamo

WASHINGTON — An Algerian man imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for nearly 20 years has been released and sent back to his homeland.

On Saturday, the Department of Defense reported that Sufiyan Barhoumi had been returned to Algeria with assurances that he would receive humane treatment and security precautions would be in place to limit the potential threat he poses.

However, the Pentagon didn’t provide any details on these security measures. This could have implications for travel restrictions.

Barhoumi was captured by Pakistani authorities and brought to Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) in 2002. According to the 2016 report of a prison review board, the United States determined that Barhoumi was involved in various terrorist groups. However, he wasn’t a Taliban member.

Barhoumi was tried by U.S. authorities to be prosecuted but that effort failed due to legal challenges to the original version of the Military Commission System established 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 had expected his client to be released and that the prisoner’s family had begun making preparations for his return, including by buying him a car and a small restaurant for him to run.

The Justice Department said then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter rejected the release of Barhoumi on Jan. 12, 2017, “based on a variety of substantive concerns, shared by multiple agencies,” without going into detail.

Trump’s inability to make a resettlement plan for prisoners has caused problems. As part of an overall effort to close Guantanamo, the Biden administration has attempted to decrease Guantanamo’s number of detained men.

Barhoumi’s release brings the total held at the U.S. 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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