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Biden transfers 19-year Guantanamo Bay detainee to Morocco

The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta. (Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem, U.S. Department of Defense/Released)
July 19, 2021

President Joe Biden’s administration moved its first Guantanamo Bay detainee transfer on Monday, announcing that Abdul Latif Nasir was transferred to the Kingdom of Morocco after 19 years in Guantanamo.

According to the Department of Defense, the Periodic Review Board found in 2016 that detaining 56-year-old Nasir “no longer remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States,” after being held in Guantanamo since 2002.

“Abdul Nasir is the first detainee to be repatriated to his country of origin during the Biden-Harris Administration,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The Administration is dedicated to following a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population of the Guantanamo facility while also safeguarding the security of the United States and its allies.”

“Morocco’s leadership in facilitating Nasir’s repatriation, alongside its past willingness to return its foreign terrorist fighters from northeast Syria, should encourage other nations to repatriate their citizens who have traveled to fight for terrorist organizations abroad,” he continued.

The board recommended Nasir be repatriated to his native country of Morocco on the condition of “security and humane treatment assurances”

The administration said the PRB process began on March 7, 2011, with an executive order by former President Barack Obama. The order was consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, and the Trump administration later affirmed the process in a separate executive order.

The panel is made up of one senior career official from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, in addition to the Joint Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries’ national security interests,” the Defense Department wrote in a statement. “The United States is also extremely grateful for the Kingdom’s willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.”

Reuters reported that Morocco’s General Prosecutor announced it would investigate Nasser for suspected involvement in terrorist acts. More than a dozen Guantanamo Bay detainees have been Moroccan, including Ibrahim Benchekroun, who was imprisoned for six years after repatriation. He later died in Syria where he had gone to join a militant group.

The Biden administration has also approved the release of three other detainees, to be sent to approved countries that agree to enforce security conditions on them. Established under former President George W. Bush as part of the War on Terror, Guantanamo Bay once held nearly 800 inmates. Today, just 39 inmates remain.