An Algerian man who had been detained at the US prison camp at Guantanamo in Cuba since 2002 has been transferred to France, the French Foreign Ministry said today.
The ministry named the man as Saber Lahmar and said he had been cleared of all terrorism charges by courts of justice in several countries including the United States.
The statement said that by agreeing to host Lahmar, France was contributing to President Barack Obama’s efforts to shut down Guantanamo, which has long been denounced by US critics as a place where human rights were routinely violated.
"We have chosen to support the implementation of President Obama’s decision, which meets with a long-standing expectation of the European Union," the French ministry said.
Lahnar was the second detainee taken in by France. Another Algerian, Lakhdar Boumediene, was transferred in May.
The statement said French authorities would make every effort to help Lahmar integrate into French society.
"After seven years of incarceration at Guantanamo, Mr. Lahmar can at last resume a normal life," it said.
Obama pledged to close Guantanamo by January 22 but has acknowledged that his deadline would likely be missed because of political and diplomatic obstacles.
The prison camp was set up in 2002 under Obama’s predecessor George Bush to house terrorism suspects, but quickly drew international condemnation because of harsh interrogation techniques and judicial processes that were deemed unfair.
More than 200 detainees remain in the prison. About 90 have been cleared to be transferred, but the Obama administration, limited by Congress from bringing them into the United States, has struggled to convince other countries to take them in.
Yesterday, the US and Italian authorities said two Tunisian detainees had been transferred to Italy, where they would face trial over undisclosed charges.