WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday transferred its first inmate from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a Moroccan jailed since 2002, bringing the facility’s population to 39.
Created to house foreign suspects in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the prison has become a symbol of the excesses of the United States’ “war on terror” due to harsh interrogation methods which, according to critics, amounted to torture.
While Trump has kept the prison open during his four years in the White House, Biden has vowed to shut it down.
Abdul Latif Nasir, Moroccan, 56, was repatriated to Morocco. He was cleared for release in 2016.
Most of the prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay have been held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.
Opened under President George W. Bush, the prison population peaked at around 800 inmates before starting to decline. Obama further reduced the number, but his efforts to close the prison were largely thwarted by the Republican opposition in Congress.
The law still prohibits the federal government from transferring detainees to prisons in the Americas. Even with his own Democratic Party now controlling Congress, Biden has such slim majorities that he would face a daunting challenge in securing legislative changes, as some Democrats might also oppose it.
Reporting by Idrees Ali Editing by Gareth Jones and Steve Orlofsky
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