The Biden administration has transferred its first detainee out of the notorious military prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said.
Abdul Latif Nasir, 56, will be repatriated to his home country Morocco from the offshore detention facility. Nasir had been cleared for release in 2016 after a review board determined that his detention “no longer remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States.”
The necessary steps to carry out the transfer, however, could not be completed before former President Barack Obama left office and Nasir continued to remain detained during Donald Trump’s presidency.
"The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Abdul Latif Nasir from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Kingdom of Morocco," the Pentagon said in a statement on Monday, adding that 39 prisoners remain in the controversial facility.
"The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries' national security interests. The United States is also extremely grateful for the Kingdom's willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility," the statement added.
The Pentagon notified Congress of its intent to repatriate Nasir on June 17, a senior administration official told reporters Monday.
It was not immediately known whether Nasir's repatriation represents an acceleration in the Biden administration’s efforts to close the prison, many of whose inmates have been held without charges or trial for years.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that 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.”
Out of the 39 remaining inmates at Guantanamo, only two have been convicted. Ten are eligible for transfer, having been cleared by the Periodic Review Board (PRB), and 17 are eligible for the PRB. Ten others are involved in the military commission process, a senior administration official told CNN.
Officials did not say whether Nasir would be detained once he is repatriated to Morocco, referring reporters to the Moroccan government for more information.
In February, the White House said President Joe Biden intended to shut down Guantanamo by the time he leaves office, a tall task that the Obama administration failed to achieve nearly a decade ago.
Obama, a Democrat, had made a campaign promise in 2008 to close the prison by the end his second term in office. His Republican successor, Trump, signed an executive order in 2018 to keep the detention center open.
The Guantanamo prison, also known as “Gitmo,” became synonymous with prisoner abuse by the United States in the early years of the so-called war on terror.
Its detainees were subjected to repeated abuse, humiliation and torture as part of their interrogation, the accounts of which were gradually exposed to the outside world by the few inspectors who visited the prison and some of the inmates who were later released.
The Guantanamo prison, which was opened in 2002 to hold terrorist suspects, was once home to 779 inmates.