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July 19, 2021, 4:48 p.m. EDT

Transfer of Moroccan by Biden administration viewed as step toward shutdown of Guantánamo Bay detention facility

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

Under Trump, only one prisoner, a Saudi, was transferred to Saudi Arabia to serve the remainder of his sentence after he agreed to a plea bargain.

Under Obama, 197 were transferred to other countries, while 500 were transferred by Bush. Most of those still at the site are being held without charges.

The possibility that former Guantánamo prisoners would resume hostile activities has long been a concern that has played into the debate over releases. The office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a 2016 report that about 17% of the 728 detainees who had been released were “confirmed” and 12% were “suspected” of reengaging in such activities.

But the vast majority of those re-engagements occurred with former prisoners who did not go through the security review that was set up under Obama. A task force that included the Defense Department and the CIA analyzed who was held at Guantánamo and determined who could be released.

The U.S. thanked Morocco for facilitating Nasser’s transfer. “The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries’ national security interests,” the Pentagon statement said. “The United States is also extremely grateful for the Kingdom’s willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility.”

In a statement, the public prosecutor at the Court of Appeal in Rabat said the National Division of the Judicial Police in Casablanca had been instructed to open an investigation into Nasser “on suspicion of committing terrorist acts.” It didn’t specify what those might be.

Idrissi, Nasser’s attorney, said judicial authorities should not “take measures that prolong his torment and suffering, especially since he lived through the hell of Guantánamo.”

Nasser initially got news he was going to be released in the summer of 2016, when one of his lawyers called him at the detention center and told him the U.S. had decided he no longer posed a threat. He thought he’d be returned to Morocco soon.

“I’ve been here 14 years,” he said at the time, five years ago. “A few months more is nothing.”

Nasser’s journey to the Cuban prison was a long one. He was a member of a nonviolent but illegal Moroccan Sufi Islam group in the 1980s, according to his Pentagon file. In 1996, he was recruited to fight in Chechnya but ended up in Afghanistan, where he trained at an al Qaeda camp. He was captured after fighting U.S. forces there and was sent to Guantánamo in May 2002.

An unidentified military official appointed to represent him before the review board said he studied math, computer science and English at Guantánamo, creating a 2,000-word Arabic-English dictionary. The official told the board that Nasser “deeply regrets his actions of the past.”

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