US President Joe Biden’s administration has transferred its first detainee from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a Moroccan man who had been imprisoned since 2002.
The move leaves just 39 inmates at the military jail.
Set up to house foreign suspects following the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, Guantanamo came to symbolise the excesses of the US “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.
Although former president Donald Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House, Mr Biden has vowed to close it.
Abdul Latif Nasir, a 56-year-old Moroccan, was repatriated to Morocco. He had been cleared for release in 2016.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price: The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its collaboration in repatriating Abdul Latif Nasir, a Moroccan citizen who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/goGl87hE6g
— U.S. Embassy Morocco (@USEmbMorocco) July 19, 2021
Most of the prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay have been held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.
Opened under president George W. Bush, the prison’s population grew to a peak of about 800 inmates before it started to shrink.
Barack Obama whittled down the number further, but his effort to close Guantanamo was stymied largely by Republican opposition in Congress.
The federal government is still barred by law from transferring any inmates to prisons on the US mainland.
Even with his own Democratic party controlling Congress, Mr Biden has majorities so slim that he would face a tough challenge securing legislative changes because some Democrats might also oppose them.