Mystery shrouds fate of former Guantanamo inmate

Mystery shrouds fate of former Guantanamo inmate
Analysis: Neither US nor Moroccan authorities will reveal whether a prisoner repatriated from Guantanamo Bay after being declared "not dangerous" will be imprisoned or released.
3 min read
18 September, 2015
There are still 115 prisoners left in Guantanamo [Getty]

A Pentagon official has refused to disclose whether a repatriated prisoner who spent 13 years at Guantanamo Bay would be imprisoned, placed under house arrest or released after his return to Morocco.

Commander Gary Ross said Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri was repatriated to Morocco on Wednesday.

"The United States coordinated with the government of Morocco to ensure this transfer took place [in a manner] consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures," Ross said.

The 47-year-old is being held in an unknown location, according to the human rights organisation, Reprieve, whose lawyers represent him.

Reprieve's website reported that its lawyers were concerned for his safety and wellbeing.

The US coordinated with Morocco to ensure appropriate security and humane treatment measures
- Gary Ross, Pentagon spokesman

Chekkouri's brother has been in contact with him, Reprieve has said.

"[He] sounded OK and in good spirits," Deutsche Welt reported Chekkouri's brother as saying.

Despite being cleared in 2009 by six US government security and intelligence agencies - including the CIA, the FBI and the Departments of State and Defense - which stated that he posed "no further threat whatsoever" to the US or its allies, it took six more years for him to finally be released from Guantanamo.

During his time in detention he was not charged with any crime and did not face trial.

Captured 'fleeing Tora Bora'

He was captured by Pakistani forces in late December 2001 with a group of several dozen Arab fighters who are understood to have been fleeing the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. He was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002.

The US considered him to be a "close associate" of al-Qaeda's late leader Osama bin Laden, and a founder of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), according to a once-secret US military file released by WikiLeaks.

The file said Chekkouri had recruited GICM fighters for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and that he had participated in combat against the US-led international coalition in Afghanistan in 2001.

The GICM is considered responsible for deadly bombings in Casablanca in 2003, in which 12 suicide bombers killed 33 others, and the Madrid train bombings of 2004, which killed 191.

Now Chekkouri has been released, 115 detainees are still in detention at Guantanamo, detained as part of the "global war on terrorism" in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

President Barack Obama vowed to close the controversial facility when he came to office in January 2009, but has struggled to do so in the face of domestic opposition at home in Congress and abroad from allies reluctant to take in one-time terror suspects.

When Obama came to office, Guantanamo contained 242 prisoners.

He now has just a little more than a year to make good on his promise.

The Pentagon has said it is studying the cost of moving detainees to US military prisons at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina.