A Moroccan man held at Guantanamo bay on suspicion of fighting for the Taliban has become the first prisoner released from the high-security prison during Joe Biden’s presidency.
Abdul Latif Nasir has been at the military facility in Cuba since May 2002 but never charged with a crime. He was recommended for transfer in 2016, but remained at the site throughout Donald Trump’s four years in power.
The 56-year-old is being sent back to his homeland, in the first sign that Mr Biden is determined to pick up where Barack Obama left off and attempt to shut down the prison.
Mr Nasir is accused of being a Taliban fighter who battled US forces in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001, where Osama Bin Laden is suspected to have been hiding.
He told an interagency panel through a representative five years ago that he “deeply regrets his actions of the past,” the New York Times reported.
Abdul Latif Nasir was accused of battling US forces in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001
Credit: Shelby Sullivan-Bennis via AP
He was approved for release by the government panel on July 11, 2016, on the condition that he be sent to his native Morocco with security assurances from its government.
Despite the recommendation, he languished in Guantanamo for another four years while Mr Trump was president.
Mr Nasir is the first detainee to be repatriated to his country of origin during the Biden administration, and while the terms of release have not been publicly disclosed, they are thought to involve a multi-year ban on travel outside Morocco.
The New York Times reported that Mr Nasir’s family members in Casablanca have pledged to support him by finding him work in his brother’s swimming pool cleaning business.
“Morocco’s leadership in facilitating Nasser’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 organisations abroad,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Some 39 prisoners remain at Guantanamo, 11 of whom have been charged with war crimes. The other 28, like Mr Nasser, have not been charged. At its peak, the jail held around 675 prisoners.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, accused of being the architect of the September 11 attacks, is awaiting trial alongside four other men.
In February, the White House launched a study into how to close the facility, but has been careful not to over promise after the failure of Mr Obama.
The Republican Party blocked Mr Obama’s plans to shut it down by restricting the ability of the United States to move prisoners from Guantanamo to the US mainland.
“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,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Only one prisoner, Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi, was released from the facility under Mr Trump.
He was sent back to Saudi Arabia to serve the nine years remaining in a 13-year sentence he received after pleading guilty to terrorism-related offences involving a 2002 Al Qaeda attack on a French-flagged oil tanker off Yemen’s coast.