Friday, May 15, 2009

Algerian Held at Guantanamo Transferred to France

Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian who had been held at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was set free in France today, about six months after a U.S. judge ordered his release.

France accepted the transfer of Boumediene, who had been held since 2002, after he expressed willingness to go to the country, where he has family, according to a statement from the French government.

“Now that he is free, we hope that Lakhdar Boumediene can resume a normal life,” Eric Chevallier, a spokesman for the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, said in the statement.

President Barack Obama has ordered Guantanamo Bay shut down, and the Justice Department is reviewing the 240 detainees to determine whether they are eligible for release or should be prosecuted. About 30 may soon be released, Holder said in April. He is trying to persuade other countries to accept detainees from the prison camp.

In November, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington ordered the release of five Algerian men, including Boumediene, saying the government failed to prove its claim that they were enemy combatants. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier in 2008 that the Algerians had the right to petition the federal courts for their release.

Residing in Bosnia

The men, all of whom were either citizens or legal residents of Bosnia, were arrested in 2001 in that country and charged with plotting to blow up the U.S. embassy there. Those charges were dropped, though the men were arrested as they left jail. They were accused of providing support to al-Qaeda and planning to travel to Afghanistan to fight against U.S. and coalition forces.

The U.S. is “extremely grateful to the French government and the European Union for their assistance on the successful transfer of Lakhdar Boumediene, and we commend the leadership they have demonstrated,” Matthew Olsen, executive director of a government task force reviewing the status of the detainees, said in a statement.