President Joe Biden's administration said on Monday that it had transferred its first detainee from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a Moroccan man imprisoned since 2002, lowering the population at the facility to 39, Reuters reported.
Abdul Latif Nasir, 56, was repatriated to Morocco.
“I was born again on July 19. My birthday is no longer March 4. I was born yesterday on July 19," Abdul Latif Nasir said in a statement shared with ABC News. “I have no words to describe my overwhelming sense of happiness and joy. It is like a miracle after 20 years to be home and celebrate Eid together with my family.”
On Tuesday, the legal charity Reprieve, which campaigned for his release and provided legal support, confirmed to ABC News that Nasser was reunited with his family in Morocco.
Nasir, whose case was profiled by ABC News in 2019, was first cleared for release from Guantanamo more than five years ago. He had been detained there for 19 years after he was captured in Afghanistan, alleged by the US government to be an active member of the Taliban and then to have trained with al-Qaeda.
Guantanamo set up to house foreign suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the prison came to symbolize the excesses of the US “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods critics said amounted to torture, Reuters said in the report.
While former President Donald Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House, Biden has vowed to close it, a promise White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Monday.
Nasir had been cleared for release in 2016 during the Obama administration before Trump took office. Most of the prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay have been held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.
"The (Biden) 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," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Morocco's general prosecutor said in a statement that Nasir would be investigated for suspected involvement in terrorist acts, and a police source said he had been taken into custody in Casablanca.
More than a dozen Moroccans have been held at Guantanamo Bay and those repatriated have faced investigation and trial. One, Ibrahim Benchekroun, was jailed for six years after being repatriated in 2005 and died in 2014 in Syria where he had traveled to join a militant group.
A senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that of the remaining detainees at the prison, 10 are already eligible for transfer.
Advocacy groups welcomed the move but said more needed to be done.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the administration was actively looking into recreating the position of a State Department envoy for the closure of the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.