U.S. sends Gitmo detainee to France for release

A guard talks with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, earlier this year.
U.S. officials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have released a well-known Algerian detainee and flown him to France, where he will be allowed to join family members.

French officials said they agreed to accept Lakhdar Boumediene, who is not a French citizen, because he has relatives in the country. Boumediene arrived in France from Guantanamo on Friday, according to a statement from the French foreign ministry. Boumediene had been in custody since he and five others were arrested in Bosnia in 2001. Last year, a federal judge ordered five of the six men freed for lack of evidence supporting accusations that they planned to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia. The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling bearing his name declared that detainees in the U.S. Navy facility at Guantanamo Bay have a right to appear in court and be charged. If that doesn’t happen, it said, they must be released. Three of Boumediene’s co-defendants were released earlier to Bosnia, where they are naturalized citizens. The fifth defendant ordered freed, Sabir Lahmar, is believed to still be in custody at Guantanamo Bay.

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The French statement noted that France has long called for the closing of the Guantanamo facility and “hailed President Obama’s decision to do so.” The statement said Boumediene said he was willing to move to France because of the family members he has there. “France reviews any individual request on a case-by-case basis in the light of its legal and security implications and the existence of a connection with our country,” foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said in the statement. The statement noted court cases that have been decided in Boumediene’s favor, including the one ordering his release. Boumediene is the second non-citizen to be accepted by a European country. Two months ago, Binyam Mohamed, of Ethiopia, was accepted by the United Kingdom because he had previously lived there. To date, the United States has not transferred any of the Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil because of widespread political resistance from many governors and members of Congress.