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Morocco judge orders release of former Guantanamo detainee

[JURIST] A Moroccan judge on Thursday ordered the release [NYT report] of Younis Chekkouri, a former Guantanamo detainee who had remained in custody for nearly five months despite diplomatic assurances that he would be freed after his transfer to the country [JURIST report]. Chekkouri's case drew scrutiny because authorities in Morocco apparently told the US that he would be released without charges within 72 hours of any transfer, but instead kept him under custody and opened a criminal investigation against him. Chekkouri was captured near the Pakistan border and transferred to Guantanamo, after the US began bombing Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Although Chekkouri denies his involvement in a Moroccan Islamist fundamentalist group before his capture in 2001, he still faces the possibility of criminal charges in connection with those allegations. Chekkouri's lawyer, Khalil Idrissi, described the release as "a positive step" and hopes that it will be followed with the dropping of all charges. Cori Crider, a lawyer with the international human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website], which represented Chekkouri in a habeas corpus lawsuit in the US, stated [press release] that, “[i]t has been a years-long struggle to get Younous out to his family, but his new life starts today. He is one of the kindest, gentlest souls I had the privilege to represent in my years going to Guantanamo, and I am so pleased he will spend tonight with his family.”

Currently, 91 detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay, and 34 await resettlement in foreign countries. Amnesty International USA (AI) [advocacy website] alleged that Mustafa al-Hawsawi [AI report], one of the accused 9/11 ringleaders, is in desperate need of medical care in a letter [text, PDF] to the Pentagon that was made public on Wednesday. Last month the Obama administration stated [JURIST report] its intention to fulfill its promise to close Guantanamo but has struggled due to Congressional opposition to relocating detainees to the US, as well as the slow process of transferring prisoners to other countries. Seventeen detainees were scheduled for transfer in January, although only 16 were released as one refused the transfer [JURIST report]. Human rights experts from the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation [official website] joined in sending an open letter [text, PDF] urging [JURIST report] the US government to shut down the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay on its fourteenth anniversary last month.

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