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Guantanamo Bay prisoner Sufiyan Barhoumi was transferred to Algeria, the Pentagon announced Saturday, leaving 37 detainees at the detention facility.
Barhoumi, a 48-year-old Algeria native, had been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for 20 years.
He had been awaiting release for nearly six years when the multi-agency Periodic Review Board determined on August 9, 2016, that detaining Barhoumi “was no longer necessary” to protect against a continuing significant threat to national security, according to the Department of Defense.
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Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, has been visiting Barhoumi at Guantanamo Bay for the last 12 years and celebrated the news Saturday that Barhoumi was finally home with his mom and siblings in Algeria.
“I’m overjoyed,” Kadidal told Fox News Digital on Saturday. “I’ve known him, and I’ve known his family. They’re all good people. A lot of times guys were damaged before they got into Guantanamo, and you kind of worry that whatever happens after they get out won’t be good.
“With him, I just don’t have that kind of worry. I know he’s going to land on his feet, and he’s going to have a good life.”
Initially suspected by the United States of being part of a jihadist bomb-making cell in Pakistan, according to his attorney, the board recommended Barhoumi be released to his native country of Algeria, subject to security and humane treatment assurances.
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The Guantanamo Bay prison opened in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has detained nearly 800 people. Today, 37 detainees remain: 18 are eligible for transfer; seven are eligible for a Periodic Review Board; 10 are involved in the military commissions process; and two detainees have been convicted in military commissions, according to the Pentagon.
Both President Biden and former President Barack Obama said they want to shut it down completely, as the Cuba facility had become a worldwide symbol of mistreatment of prisoners as part of the war on terror. But former President Trump reversed course.
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Unexplained bureaucratic problems stalled Barhoumi’s release in the final months of the Obama Administration, according to his attorney. Barhoumi’s family had been anticipating his homecoming six years ago and had even found a bride to marry him, according to the New York Times.
But when Trump was elected his administration halted transfers. Biden’s election offered a new window for Barhoumi release.
“The United States appreciates the willingness of Algeria, and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement Saturday.
Kadidal, who has represented many other Gitmo detainees, said Barhoumi was the first to have a recommendation letter from a former guard to the review board. He speaks English and had built a reputation as a mediator and a peacemaker at the detention facility, Kadidal said.
Barhoumi lost his left hand in a landmine accident two decades ago, and believes that’s why the military kept him at Guantanamo for so long because they assumed he had blown it off while training to make bombs, according to his attorney.
“He’s often stated he has ‘no black heart against America’ despite his years of detention,” Kadidal told Fox News Digital.
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