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Guantanamo Bay: US transfers Moroccan detainee back to Rabat after 19 years' jail

Abdul Latif Nasser was held in Guantanamo for two decades and never charged with a crime
Nasser was handed over to Moroccan authorities where his family has vowed to help him (International Red Cross)

A Moroccan man who was held in Guantanamo Bay for nearly 20 years and never charged with a crime was the first detainee to be transferred from the prison facility on Monday by the Joe Biden administration.  

Abdul Latif Nasser was taken to Guantanamo Bay in May 2002 after being captured by Pakistani security forces in 2001 and handed over to the US Army. 

American officials accused Nasser of being a former Taliban fighter who fought against US forces in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001. 

Nasser later told an interagency panel comprising of various US security agencies in 2016 that he "deeply regrets his past actions of the past".

But the 56-year-old was never convicted of a crime and, despite being recommended for release from Guantanamo Bay in 2016, was held for three additional years. 

US forces reportedly handed Nasser to Moroccan authorities on Monday, according to the New York Times. 

Prayers 'finally answered'

Abdul Latif's brother Mustafa told the rights group Reprieve that he was relieved that his brother was coming home and that "his prayers were finally answered". 

"To know that my brother has returned to Morocco fills me with happiness I cannot even describe," said Mustafa Nasser, as cited by Reprieve.

"The last five years, since he was cleared for transfer but kept in Guantánamo by President Trump, have been the hardest of all.

"In two days' time, the family will gather to celebrate Eid-al-Adha. It is my greatest wish that my brother Abdul Latif will be free to join us." 

'The last five years, since he was cleared for transfer but kept in Guantánamo by President Trump, have been the hardest of all,'

- Mustafa Nasser, brother of Abdul Latif Nasser

Reprieve deputy director Katie Taylor also welcomed Nasser's return and said "other transfer of prisoners cleared for release must follow without delay." 

"Almost exactly five years ago, Abdul Latif was unanimously cleared for transfer home to Morocco by US security agencies, but remained trapped at Guantánamo Bay, at the whim of President Trump, who explicitly endorsed indefinite detention without trial," Taylor said in a statement sent to Middle East Eye. 

"This transfer cannot make up for the two decades of his life that Abdul Latif has lost, held prisoner without charge, but we welcome his return to Moroccan soil at long last."

Thomas Anthony Durkin, who has represented Nasser for nearly a decade, said the Moroccan national's family vowed to support Nasser by giving him work in his brother's swimming pool cleaning business.  

He added that Nasser was close to being released in 2017, but that was scuppered when former US President Donald Trump halted all prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay and shut down the US State Department office handling negotiations for prisoner transfers from Gitmo. 

Transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay began under former US President George W Bush and Barack Obama but was reduced significantly by the Trump administration. 

Following the departure of Nasser, Guantanamo Bay now holds 39 prisoners, of whom 11 have been charged with war crimes.