The Pentagon announced that two of Guantánamo Bay’s longest-held prisoners will return to their home country of Algeria. The Obama administration’s special envoy for closing the prison said this was “an important step” in the president’s goal of closing the prison in Cuba.
Nabil Hadjarab and Motai Sayab, who have been in the prison since it opened in 2002 after being captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, respectively, no longer pose a threat to the United States’ national security, the Obama administration said in a letter to Congress.
According to the Washington Post, the Algerian government “raised no objection” to Hadjarab and Sayab’s transfer, but it is unclear if the government there will keep them in custody or set them free. In 2010, two other Algerian prisoners were sent back to the country despite the fact that they had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow them to stay at Guantánamo for their own safety.
Hadjarab and Sayab were reportedly participants in the mass hunger strikes by dozens of inmates at the prison this summer.
The Algerians are the first inmates to be released from the prison since September of last year. President Obama vowed to close Guantánamo when he ran for president in 2008; following the release of Hadjarab and Sayab, 164 inmates still remain at the prison.