July 26, 2010 / 5:25 PM / 9 years ago

Algeria says Guantanamo returnee now free

ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Algerian who dropped out of view after he was repatriated from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay is at home after a short period of lawful detention, judicial sources in Algeria said on Monday.

In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, handcuffs hang in Camp 6 high-security detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base April 27, 2010. REUTERS/Michelle Shephard/Pool

U.S. human rights groups have said they believe Algerian national Abdul Aziz Naji, who was sent back home from Guantanamo Bay against his will, was being held in secret detention and was at risk of abuse.

“He is at home in Batna,” said a judicial source who did not want to be identified, referring to a town about 500 km (310 miles) east of the Algerian capital.

“He just needs to go every week to the local police station to sign a form,” said the source.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made a commitment to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and any evidence that former detainees are mistreated after they are sent home could make it harder for him to meet that target.

The Algiers Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Naji has been held in detention in Algeria in accordance with legislation on holding terrorism suspects which allows for a person to be held for up to 12 days before appearing in court.

The statement said he was released after appearing before a judge on Sunday who placed him under judicial control — which means he has to report regularly to police pending a further decision on his case.

“Contrary to what has been falsely reported, this person’s case has been dealt with in the most complete transparency and in respect for the law, whether in terms of procedure or the length of his detention,” the statement said.

The prosecutor’s office said Naji had been returned from Guantanamo Bay to Algeria on July 18. U.S. rights groups said last week they were worried because Naji’s lawyers and family had been unable to locate or contact him since his return.

Naji, who was held at Guantanamo since 2002, had told his lawyers that he did not want to return to Algeria under any circumstances because he feared persecution from the Algerian government and Islamist militants there.

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