(Guantánamo Bay, Cuba) The U.S. military on Thursday repatriated a prisoner to Algeria who had been held at Guantánamo without charge for more than 20 years, as the Biden administration continues efforts to reduce the number of detainees at the base. naval.

The prisoner, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, 52, was among about 20 suspected low-level fighters who were arrested by Pakistani security services during a 2002 raid in Faisalabad on homes believed to be as havens for al-Qaeda. The suspected fighters were eventually taken to Guantanamo Bay.

Following his release, there remains in the Pentagon prison in Cuba only one prisoner captured during the raid. The others have been transferred or repatriated.

Lawyers who attempted to speak with Mr. Bakush described him as a reclusive man. He boycotted hearings where his suitability for release was considered and remained mostly in his cell at Camp 6, the prison building where cooperative captives are held and allowed to eat, pray and watch the night. television together.

H. Candace Gorman, a Chicago-based defense attorney who has represented Mr. Bakush for 17 years, said he stopped meeting with her in 2017 or 2018.

Mr. Bakush has never been married and has no children, but he may have extended family in Algeria.

Initially, US forces identified the prisoner as a Libyan named Ali Abdul Razzaq, and that name appeared in documents filed with federal court. But over time, he identified himself as Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush and said he was Algerian.

By the time of the 2021 hearing, US intelligence had concluded that he “likely underwent basic and advanced training in Afghanistan and then served as an instructor at an extremist camp prior to his capture.”

A U.S. Army officer representing Bakush’s interests said “he prefers to be alone and spends a lot of time in his cell”, adding that he has little education and aspires to buy a truck and become a driver. -delivery person.

They also argued that as 20 years of detention approached, the US government should be required to prove a detainee’s future dangerousness in a manner more akin to civilian incarceration for psychiatric reasons. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2021.

Mr. Bakush’s repatriation is the sixth transfer made in six months by the Biden administration, which in its statements has described each release as consistent with its goal of “responsibly reducing the inmate population and ultimately shut down the center at Guantanamo Bay”.

Currently, 16 of the 30 men held at Guantánamo are eligible for transfer, but diplomatic negotiations will be more complex than for recent repatriations. They are 11 Yemenis, 1 Libyan and 1 Somali who by law cannot be returned to their country of origin. Negotiations to find countries that could host some of these men date back to the Obama administration.

In addition, the lawyers of a convicted war criminal, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, are looking for a country that could accept him under a plea agreement that would allow him to receive medical treatment. medical. Mr. Hadi, in his 60s, is disabled due to deterioration of his spine and has undergone six back and neck surgeries at Guantanamo Bay since 2017.

Over the years, 780 men and boys have been detained at Guantanamo Bay, whose peak population was around 660 in 2003. All were brought there during the administration of George W. Bush.