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Biden admin transfers first Guantánamo detainee back to home country

Marks major policy shift from Trump admin
Guantanamo Bay
Posted at 8:36 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 13:22:57-04

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has transferred a detainee out of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility for the first time in a major shift in policy from the Trump presidency.

The White House sent a Moroccan man back home Monday years after he was recommended for discharge. Abdullatif Nasser was cleared for repatriation by a review board in 2016 but remained at Guantánamo during the Trump presidency.

The Pentagon says the review process determined Nasser's detention no longer remained necessary to protect U.S. national security.

After arriving in Morocco on Monday, Nasser was taken into custody. Prosecutors there say they'll investigate him on suspicion of committing terrorist acts.

Nasser was never charged during his detention in Guantánamo.

The State Department said in a statement that the Biden administration would continue "a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population of the Guantánamo facility while also safeguarding the security of the United States and its allies."

At the White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki said that closing the detention center is a goal of the Biden administration.

"Yes, our goal is to close Guantánamo Bay," Psaki said.

Psaki added that the administration did not have a timeline for the ultimately closure of the facility but added that the White House would continue to work through the process with that goal in mind.

The Guantánamo detention center opened in 2002 when then-President George W. Bush transformed what had been a Navy outpost in southern Cuba into a place to keep those suspected of terrorist acts in custody.

The center has long faced ethical criticism and allegations that those detained were tortured and abused. President Barack Obama sought to close the camp during his time in office, but Congress stopped his efforts to transfer the prisoners to the U.S. for prosecution or medical treatment.

The Obama administration ultimately released nearly 200 prisoners from the camp, but transfer efforts stalled under the Trump administration. Trump cited national security concerns in keeping the prisoners detained at the camp.

Following Nasser's transfer, 39 prisoners remain detained at Guantánamo.