WASHINGTON — Two Algerians were sent back to Algeria on Thursday after more than a decade at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, despite their lawyers’ entreaties that they be sent elsewhere for their safety.
Djamel Ameziane, who had been detained at the U.S. naval station since his 2002 capture in Pakistan, and Belkecem Bensayah, who was captured in Bosnia the same year, fear they will be targeted by extremists or persecuted by Algeria’s notoriously harsh security forces, their attorneys said.
Human-rights groups also warned that the men could face danger in Algeria. “These men, never charged with any crime, should have been able to effectively challenge their return to a country where they believe they are at risk of further human-rights violations,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International USA.
It’s not known whether the government in Algeria plans to imprison the men. Under Algerian law, they can be held up to 12 days while a prosecutor reviews their cases and decides whether to charge them, lawyers said.
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Pentagon officials said they had no evidence that extremists had targeted 14 Guantánamo Bay inmates previously sent back to Algeria, half under the Obama administration. The officials said they had commitments from the Algerian government to treat returned prisoners humanely and to look out for their safety.
“We have received no credible or substantiated information to suggest that any of these former detainees have been targeted,” said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman.
Transfer of the two Algerians lowered the Guantánamo population to 162.