GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The U.S. military repatriated a prisoner to Algeria on Thursday who had been held at Guantánamo without charge for more than two decades, as the Biden administration continues its efforts to reduce the detainee population at the Navy base.
The prisoner, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, 52, was among about 20 suspected low-level fighters who were swept up by Pakistani security services in a 2002 raid in Faisalabad on dwellings believed to be Al Qaeda safe houses. The suspected fighters were ultimately taken to Guantánamo Bay.
His release leaves only one prisoner captured in the raid still at the Pentagon prison in Cuba. The others have been transferred or repatriated.
Lawyers who have tried to speak with Mr. Bakush described him as reclusive. He boycotted hearings where his suitability for release was reviewed and mostly stayed in his cell at Camp 6, the prison building where cooperative captives are held and allowed to eat, pray and watch television together.
H. Candace Gorman, a defense lawyer based in Chicago who has represented Mr. Bakush for the past 17 years, said he stopped meeting with her in 2017 or 2018.
He has never been married and has no children but may have distant family in Algeria, she said in an email. This year was his 22nd Ramadan in U.S. custody.
At first, U.S. forces identified the prisoner as a Libyan named Ali Abdul Razzaq, and that name appeared on his federal court filings. But in time, he identified himself as Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush and said he was Algerian.
By the time of his 2021 hearing, U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded he “probably attended basic and advanced training in Afghanistan and later served as an instructor at an extremist camp prior to his capture.”
A U.S. military officer representing Mr. Bakush’s interests said “he prefers to be alone and spends a lot of time in his cell,” adding that he has little education and aspired to buy a truck and become a delivery driver.
In 2018, lawyers tried to use his case to get federal courts to set a higher standard for evaluating the intelligence gathered against the men in the earliest days of Guantánamo Bay. But the effort failed.
They also argued that, as the detainees approached two decades in custody, the U.S. government should be required to prove the future dangerousness of a detainee in a manner more similar to a civil commitment for psychiatric reasons. The Supreme Court declined to take the case in 2021.
Mr. Bakush’s repatriation was the sixth transfer in six months by the Biden administration, which in statements has described each release as consistent with its goal of “responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantánamo Bay facility.”
Now, 16 of the 30 men held there are eligible for transfers, but require more complex diplomatic negotiations than the recent repatriations. They include 11 Yemenis, a Libyan and a Somali who, by law, cannot be returned to their homelands. Negotiations to find nations to take some of those men stretch back to the Obama administration.
In addition, lawyers for an admitted war criminal, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, are searching for a nation to take him as part of a plea deal that would provide him with medical care. Mr. Hadi, who is in his 60s, is disabled from a degenerative spine disease and has undergone six back and neck surgeries at Guantánamo Bay since 2017. Over the years, 780 men and boys have been held at Guantánamo Bay, with a maximum population of about 660 in 2003. All were brought there under the George W. Bush administration.