Guantanamo detainees sent to Algeria, Cape Verde

Algerian prisoner says he would rather stay locked up in Cuba than face torture in his home country

Published July 19, 2010 10:32PM (EDT)

Two Guantanamo detainees have left captivity, the Defense Department says. One is bound for the Atlantic island Cape Verde, but the other is headed for Algeria, where he fears he'll be tortured or killed.

Inmate Aziz Abdul Naji fought his return to Algeria all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he would rather stay in prison in Cuba than face torture in his home country, where the government has waged a decades-long battle against Islamic militants, killing many civilians in the crossfire.

Naji lost the plea Friday, clearing the way for him and five other inmates to be returned to Algeria. Naji had been held in Guantanamo since his capture in Pakistan in 2002.

"He fears he'll be targeted by militants" said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch.

The handling of the Naji case is in stark contrast to that of Syrian detainee Abd-al-Nisr Mohammed Khantumani, who was sent to Cape Verde on Monday.

Prasow says that's because the U.S. government feared he would be tortured in Syria, whereas U.S. officials argue that Algeria has promised not to harm detainees returned to them. Prasow says her group has tried to track the fate of previous Guantanamo detainees sent back to Algeria, but they've been unable to make contact.

The Defense Department says more than 600 hundred detainees have been allowed to leave Guantanamo, with 178 still detained.

By Kimberly Dozier

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