Guantánamo detainee transferred to Algeria

The Pentagon on Thursday announced it was transferring a Guantánamo Bay detainee to Algeria, in the first transfer from the detention facility this year.

The detainee, Ahmed Belbacha, had been held at Guantánamo for 12 years without being charged with a crime. He was cleared for release in 2009.

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Belbacha, an Algerian, had at one time sought resettlement outside the country, but he decided to agree to be transferred to Algeria so he could see his elderly parents, according to the Miami Herald.

“He wants to go home and spend time with his parents,” said his attorney, Alka Pradhan, who is part of the London-based legal defense organization Reprieve.

Belbacha’s Guantánamo profile concluded that he had trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and joined with the Armed Islamic Group. His attorneys say he fled Algeria in 1999 when the Islamic group was trying to topple the secular government.

Thursday’s transfer drops the detainee population at Guantánamo to 154.

President Obama has said he wants to make a new push to close the detention facility after the effort stalled in his first term.

Since August 2013, the Pentagon has transferred 12 detainees out of Guantánamo.

“The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday.