Cleared ex-Gitmo prisoner freed from Moroccan jail
February 12, 2016
A former Guantanamo prisoner has today been released in Morocco after almost five months of detention in Morocco and 14 years in Guantanamo Bay.
Younous Chekkouri was returned to his native Morocco in September 2015 after 14 years at Guantanamo, where he had been held without charge or trial and cleared for release since 2009. Upon arrival in Morocco, he was immediately imprisoned, despite US government assurances that he would not be charged or detained for longer than 72 hours. He remained imprisoned for nearly five months, during which his lawyers at the international human rights organization Reprieve brought legal action in US federal court over the American government’s failure to keep its promises towards him.
In 2010, during US habeas proceedings brought by Mr Chekkouri’s Reprieve lawyers, the US government admitted that their central allegation against him – believed to be the reason for his detention in Morocco – was based on unreliable information extracted primarily through torture. In October of last year, the US Department of Justice released a letter publicly conceding this point.
Cori Crider, Reprieve attorney for Mr Chekkouri, said:
“It 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 Guantánamo, and I am so pleased he will spend tonight with his family. Reprieve looks forward to his being reunited with his beloved wife and Morocco closing this case, as the United States did long ago.”
Eric Lewis, pro bono attorney for Mr Chekkouri, Chair of Reprieve US and partner at Lewis Baach pllc, said:
“We are delighted that Younous has been released. There was no basis to hold him, for the last five months in Morocco or the previous 14 years in Guantanamo. He should be allowed to get on with his life. We are grateful to all those who have fought to right this injustice.”
Younous Chekkouri said:
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me through these hard times, my lawyers, everyone in the United States and Europe and Morocco who has stood by me and been my friend the whole time. I cannot believe I am free and will see my family soon. I am so happy. Thank you.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140.
2. The documents, and further background on Younous Chekkouri’s case, are available on request.