[JURIST] Moroccan born Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who spent 13 years in the Guantanamo Bay prison, was released [press release] Thursday as part of the Obama Administration’s [official website] effort to wind down and eventually close the detention center. The US never formally charged Chekkouri with a crime, but according to military documents [AP report] he was believed to have been an associate of Osama bin Laden and to have run al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Chekkouri was cleared for release by the Guantanamo Review Task Force [directive, PDF] since January 2010. Chekkouri’s Reprieve [advocacy website] representatives report [press release] he is still being held by local authorities in his native Morocco. The prisoner release is the first since June when six Guantanamo detainees were transferred [JURIST report] to Oman and reduces the prison’s population to 115.
The Guantanamo Bay prison [JURIST backgrounder] was set up in 2002 by the Bush administration as a facility to hold the most dangerous war criminals. At its peak in 2003, the prison had a population of 684 inmates. When Obama took office in 2008, one of his first directives was to close the facility, but he has faced considerable opposition in achieving that goal. On July 1, US Secretary of State John Kerry appointed [JURIST report] Lee Wolowsky to effectuate the closure of Guantanamo Bay.In August, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama is considering a “wide array” of options [JURIST report] for closing the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Many prisoners are being released from Guantanamo Bay as efforts to shut it down continue.