Two prisoners have been transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba to the government of Algeria as part of ongoing efforts to close the controversial prison, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The Pentagon announced the transfer of Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab, leaving 164 detainees still at the prison, including 84 others cleared for release years ago.
The Obama administration first announced plans to repatriate the two inmates to Algeria last month, resuming the transfer of detainees for the first time in nearly a year.
It was not immediately clear how long the two men had been held by the US government. No personal details were immediately available from the Pentagon or the White House.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the statement said. “The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
One of the repatriated Algerians, Hadjarab, had gotten some celebrity attention in recent months. The novelist John Grisham used a New York Times column Aug. 10 to campaign for the prisoner’s release as one captive in Cuba who enjoyed his books.
Hadjarab, born in Algeria but raised in France, was one of the publicly identified hunger-striking protesters whose lawyers said was systematically force-fed. The Britain-based legal activist group, Reprieve, which represents Hadjarab, created a cartoon that focused on his plight in June.
Reprieve spokesman Donald Campbell said in London that Hadjarab “agreed to being repatriated to Algeria. Of course he would ultimately like to return to France, where his family is — and we hope he will be able to do so some day. Nevertheless, he is grateful to the Algerians for accepting him.”
Obama has long promised to close the prison, most of whose inmates have been held for years without charge, but has faced resistance from Congress.
It comes a week after the State Department warned US citizens against overland travel within Algeria, citing “a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings.”
Two Algerian prisoners at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay have been transferred back to their homeland, the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday.
Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab were handed to the government of Algeria under a deal announced last month as part of efforts to eventually close the War on Terror military prison.