An Algerian man imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for nearly 20 years has been released and sent back to his homeland.
- Mr Barhoumi was captured in Pakistan in 2002
- The US deemed he was involved with various extremist groups, but not Al Qaeda or the Taliban
- He had been recommended for release in 2016, but was kept prisoner due to concerns not detailed
The US Department of Defence announced Sufyian Barhoumi had been repatriated with assurances from the Algerian government that he would be treated humanely, and that security measures would be imposed to reduce the risk that he could pose a threat in the future.
The Pentagon did not provide details about those security measures, which could include restrictions on travel.
Mr Barhoumi was captured in Pakistan and taken to the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002.
The US eventually determined he was involved with various extremist groups but was not a member of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, according to a report by a review board at the prison.
That report also approved him for release in 2016.
US authorities attempted to prosecute Mr Barhoumi in 2008 but the effort was dropped amid legal challenges to the initial version of the military commission system set up under President George W Bush.
In the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency in January 2017, a federal judge in Washington declined to intervene in the Pentagon’s decision not to repatriate Mr Barhoumi, whose lawyer said he had expected his client to be released.
The lawyer said the prisoner’s family had begun making preparations for his return, including by buying him a car and a small restaurant for him to run.
The Justice Department said then-defence secretary Ash Carter rejected the release of Mr Barhoumi on January 12, 2017, “based on a variety of substantive concerns, shared by multiple agencies”, without going into detail.
Mr Barhoumi, who lost four fingers in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan, offered to plead guilty to any charges in 2012 in hopes he could receive a fixed sentence and return to his elderly mother, according to his attorney, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
By that point, however, charges against him had been dropped, and despite his continued imprisonment at Guantanamo, new charges were never pressed.
“Our government owes Sufyian and his mother years of their lives back,” Mr Kadidal said.
“I’m overjoyed that he will be home with his family, but I will dearly miss his constant good humour and empathy for the suffering of others in the utterly depressing environment of Guantanamo.”
The effort to resettle prisoners languished under former US president Donald Trump.
The Biden administration is attempting again to reduce the number of men held at Guantanamo as part of a broader effort to close the facility.
Mr Barhoumi’s release brings the total held at the US base in Cuba to 37 men, including 18 who have been deemed eligible for repatriation or resettlement in a third country.