Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Finally Freed in Morocco After 149 Days’ Imprisonment; Thanks Supporters


Guantanamo prisoner Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), repatriated to Morocco on September 16, 2015 but then imprisoned for 149 days by the Moroccan government (Photo collage by Reprieve).Great news from the legal organization Reprieve, whose lawyers represent men held at Guantánamo Bay, as one of their clients, Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), has finally been freed to be reunited with his family, 149 days after he was flown home to Morocco from Guantánamo. Younous was imprisoned on his arrival, despite assurances, made to the US by the Moroccan government, that he would be held no more than 72 hours, and it has taken until now for him to finally be granted the freedom that has eluded him since he was first seized in Afghanistan over 14 years ago.

Six years before his release, Younous was approved for release by President Obama’s high-level inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and in 2010, during habeas corpus proceedings, the US government admitted, as Reprieve described it this evening in a press release, 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.” That information related to his alleged membership in a terrorist organisation, a claim that, it is clear, was absolutely groundless. In October last year, while Younous was imprisoned in Morocco, the US Department of Justice “released a letter publicly conceding this point,” as Reprieve put it, and as I also discussed in an article at the time, Guantánamo’s Tainted Evidence: US Government Publicly Concedes Its Case Against Ex-Prisoner Facing Trial in Morocco Collapsed in 2011.

My other articles following Younous’s release from Guantánamo, discussing his disgraceful imprisonment in Morocco, were Fears for Guantánamo Prisoner Released in Morocco But Held Incommunicado in a Secret Location (immediately after his release), Former Guantánamo Prisoner Betrayed by Morocco: Are Diplomatic Assurances Worthless? (in October), Moroccan Released from Guantánamo Facing Kangaroo Court Trial Back Home As Wife Says She Is “Still Living a Nightmare” (in November), and, last month, Former Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Illegally Imprisoned in Morocco; As Murat Kurnaz Calls for His Release, Please Ask John Kerry to Act, in which, as noted in the title, I helped promote an email campaign launched by Reprieve, asking the US Secretary of State John Kerry to keep up the pressure on the Moroccan government.

Younous Chekkouri leaving prison in Morocco, where he had been held for 149 days following his release from Guantanamo. The Moroccan authorities had told the US they would hold him for longer than 72 hours (Photo via the Moroccan website Hespress).I have not met Younous, but it was always obvious to me, from the accounts of him in Guantánamo, and from his own words, reported in documents made publicly available from 2006 onwards, that he was a demonstrably peaceful man, who never posed a threat to the US and should not have been held, and I am absolutely delighted to hear of his release.

Cori Crider, his attorney at Reprieve, said this evening, “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, the chair of Reprieve US, who also helped represent Younous, 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 Guantánamo. He should be allowed to get on with his life. We are grateful to all those who have fought to right this injustice.”

Younous himself 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.”

Note: The photo of Younous leaving prison is from a Moroccan website, Hespress, where there are also other photos, and a video.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Great news from Reprieve, as Younous Chekkouri, repatriated from ‪Guantanamo‬ to Morocco last September, has finally been reunited with his family. Despite telling the US he would be held for no more than 72 hours, the Moroccan government imprisoned him for 149 days, apparently on the basis of unreliable information from Guantanamo that the US repeatedly accepted as worthless. On his release, Younous 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.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend Jan Strain shared this, I wrote:

    Thanks, Jan. Some unalloyed good news, for a change. Younous and his wife were very much in love. it will be so good for them to be reunited!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I just added a photo of Younous leaving prison from a Moroccan website, Hespress, where there are other photos: http://www.hespress.com/societe/294422.html
    There’s also a video here: http://www.hespress.com/videos/294428.html

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Sven Wraight wrote:

    Now his healing can begin.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes indeed, Sven. Good to hear from you.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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