Moroccan Released After Nearly 14 Years at Guantanamo Bay Prison

A Moroccan prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay prison released by US authorities after nearly 14 years of incarceration.

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File photo of the entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6, the maximum-security facility, at the U.S. Military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. (Photo: AP)

Moroccan prisoner Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who was being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on the U.S. Military base in Cuba, has been sent home to his native country after nearly 14 years, the Pentagon has said. The move is being seen as part of the drawn-out U.S. effort to close infamous detention centre.

The decision was made after a security review and the notification of Congress as required under the law, the Pentagon statement said.

Chekkouri, 46, was captured by Pakistan in December 2001 as he fled Afghanistan with other suspected Al-Qaeda fighters and was turned over to the United States. Chekkouri had been working for a youth charity, according to human rights group Reprieve.

He has been held at Guantanamo since May 2002 and has never been charged.

Cori Crider, an attorney at Reprieve who represented Chekkouri, expressed concern that he was not immediately released upon his arrival in Morroco as expected.

There is no reason for the Moroccan authorities to prolong Younis’ detention after all he has suffered over 14 years.
— Cori Crider, Attorney, Reprieve

Military documents show Chekkouri was believed to have been an associate of Osama bin Laden and to have run al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan. The U.S. never charged him with a crime and he had been cleared for release by theGuantanamo Review Task Force since January 2010.

Chekkouri kept a low profile at Guantanamo. He took part in the mass hunger strike in 2013 but not for an extended period. He spent most of his time in the communal areas of the detention center, reserved for detainees deemed the “most compliant” by military authorities.

It was basically his view that if he just kept his head down and was really nice to everybody that surely they would see that he wasn’t a bad guy and let him go. It’s a shame that it took almost 14 years.
— Crider said

His release reduces Guantanamo’s prison population to 115, down by more than half since President Barack Obama took office and pledged to close the center.

U.S. officials have recently said they are looking for potential sites inside the United States to hold Guantanamo prisoners but would need the Congress to lift a ban on transferring them to the country.

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