US sends home Algerian held nearly 20 years at Guantanamo prison

US sends home Algerian held nearly 20 years at Guantanamo prison
Algerian national Sufiyan Barhoumi was captured in Pakistan and sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2022, was believed to be involved with various extremist groups, but was not a member of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
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Demonstrators on Saturday call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay in Washington DC, as detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi was repatriated to Algeria [Getty]

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

The Department of Defense announced Saturday that Sufiyan Barhoumi was repatriated with assurances from 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 in the future.

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

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

US authorities attempted to prosecute Barhoumi but the effort fizzled amid legal challenges to the initial version of the military commission system set up under President George W. Bush.

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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  12 January 2017, "based on a variety of substantive concerns, shared by multiple agencies," without going into detail.

The effort to resettle prisoners languished under President Donald Trump. The Biden administration is attempting again 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.