US frees prisoner held for 13 years in Guantanamo

United States frees Moroccan prisoner Youis Abdurrahman Chekkouri held in Guantanamo Bay since 2002

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Dec 29, 2015

The United States has released a Morrocan prisoner, Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who was held at the Guantanamo Bay US Military base in Cuba for 13 years without charge. The Pentagon has said he was sent to his home country after a security review.

A representative of the organisation reported that he "sounded OK and in good spirits," after his return to Morocco.

A lawyer for the Human Rights Organization Reprieve, Cori Crider, said, "It was basically his view that if he just kept his head down and was really nice to everybody that surely they would see that he wasn't a bad guy and let him go."

"It's a shame that it took almost 14 years."

Forty seven-year-old charity worker Chekkouri was captured by Pakistani forces in 2001 when he fled Afghanistan with other suspected Al Qaeda fighters. The following year US forces took him to Guantanamo Bay. He was not charged with any crime during his years of detention and was not released despite his release being approved in 2009.

Members of the group 'Witness Against Torture' dressed in orange prison jump
suits protest against the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, along Pennsylvania
Avenue in Washington D.C. January 10, 2012

The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp started to be used as a military prison in 2002 under the presidency of George W. Bush following the attacks on the 9/11 attacks with the aim of detaining prisoners from around the globe accused of engaging in terrorism or militant activity.

Since the prison began operating 780 detainees have been incarcerated there in total. Nine of the detainees died in custody and only nine have been convicted of any crime. Human rights advocates frequently complain about violations of the rights of the detainees who are currently held in the prison.

In 2008, US president Barack Obama promised to shut down Guantanamo and signed an executive order regarding the issue that year. He said it makes no sense to spend 3 million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use as a recruitment tool.

In January 2015, he renewed his 2008 election campaign pledge to close Guantanamo.

According to US officials, Chekkouri’s release was part of drawn-out efford to close the detention center and reduce the number of detainees held there to 115 and number of detainees waiting for final approval to 53.

Reportedly, the Kuawiti prisoner Faez Kandari’s release is expected in following days as his has been approved along with that of Libyan prisoner Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr.


TRTWorld and agencies