In policy shift, Gitmo detainee is repatriated to Morocco

Dino Hazell, Alexandra Jaffe and Ellen Knickmeyer
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday transferred a Guantanamo Bay detainee to his home country for the first time, a policy shift from the Trump presidency that repatriated a Moroccan man years after he was recommended for discharge.

The prisoner, Abdullatif Nasser, who’s in his mid-50s, was cleared for repatriation by a review board in July 2016 but remained at Guantanamo under President Donald Trump. In announcing his transfer Monday, the Pentagon cited the board’s determination that Nasser’s detention was no longer necessary to protect U.S. national security.

Nasser arrived Monday in Morocco, where police took him into custody and said they would investigate him on suspicion of committing terrorist acts — even though he was never charged while in Guantanamo.

The State Department said in a statement that President Joe Biden’s administration would continue “a deliberate and thorough process” to reducing the detainee population at Guantanamo “while also safeguarding the security of the United States and its allies.”

Of the 39 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, 10 are eligible to be transferred out, 17 are eligible to go through the review process for possible transfer, another 10 are involved in the military commission process used to prosecute detainees and two have been convicted, another senior administration official said.

The Biden administration didn’t address how it would handle the

ongoing effort to prosecute five men held at Guantanamo for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The detention center opened in 2002. President George W. Bush’s administration transformed what had been a sleepy Navy outpost on Cuba’s southeastern tip into a place to interrogate and imprison people suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban after Sept. 11.

A closure effort by the Obama administration resulted in the release of 197 prisoners. With Nasser’s transfer, the Guantanamo population stands at 39.

The prisoner transfer process had stalled under President Donald Trump, who said even before taking office there should be no further releases from “Gitmo,” as Guantanamo Bay is often called. “These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” he said.