Updated: July 20, 2021 10:52:45 am
Written by Carol Rosenberg and Charlie Savage
The Biden administration on Monday transferred its first detainee out of Guantánamo Bay, repatriating a Moroccan man who had been recommended for discharge from the wartime prison starting in 2016 but nevertheless remained there during the Trump years.
The transfer of the man, Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was the first sign of a renewed effort under President Joe Biden to winnow the population of prisoners by sending them to other countries that promise to ensure the men remain under security measures. Nasser was never charged with a crime.
The transfer process, which was pursued by the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, had atrophied under President Donald Trump. With Nasser’s departure, there are now 39 prisoners at Guantánamo, 11 of whom have been charged with war crimes. At its peak in the years after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, the prison complex at the US naval base held about 675 men.
The remaining 28 prisoners who have not been charged are held as Nasser had been — as indefinite law-of-war detainees in the armed conflict against al-Qaida. Of those, 10 have been recommended for transfer with security arrangements by a federal parole-like panel.
Military intelligence officials have cast Nasser as a former Taliban fighter who battled the invading US forces in the Tora Bora mountains in late 2001. He told an interagency panel through a representative five years ago that he “deeply regrets his actions of the past,” and he was approved for release by the government panel on July 11, 2016, on the condition that he be sent only to his native Morocco with security assurances from its government.
US forces delivered Nasser to Moroccan government custody early Monday. His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin of Chicago, said he was being held at a police station in the Casablanca area and that they expected him to be reunited with his family in coming days.
The Moroccan national news agency, MAP, said he was under investigation “for his alleged involvement in the perpetration of terror acts.” Detainees who were repatriated to Morocco in earlier administrations were similarly investigated, and some were prosecuted.
Nasser’s family members in Casablanca have pledged to support him by finding him work in his brother’s swimming pool cleaning business, Durkin said.