- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 16, 2009

PARIS | A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was at the center of a Supreme Court battle over inmates’ rights arrived Friday in France, which agreed to take in the Algerian in a gesture to the Obama administration.

After seven years in the U.S. camp, Lakhdar Boumediene was released Friday and flew to France, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said.

The French government has arranged for medical care if needed, Mr. Chevallier said. Mr. Boumediene has been on a hunger strike since 2006 and was force-fed at the prison camp, his attorneys said.

Mr. Boumediene asked to come to France because he has family here, Mr. Chevallier said. French officials would not provide details about his immediate whereabouts in France after his arrival, citing security reasons.

Mr. Boumediene, suspected in a bomb plot against the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, was arrested along with five other Algerians in 2001 in Bosnia.

“He was deemed innocent of all charges relating to the participation in eventual terrorist activities by judicial decisions in several countries, including the United States,” Mr. Chevallier said. “Now that he is free, we hope that Lakhdar Boumediene can resume a normal life.”

President Obama has promised to close the prison at Guantanamo and has urged allies to take in some of the 60 inmates who could face abuse, imprisonment or death if returned to their homelands. France promised to take one Guantanamo prisoner when Mr. Obama attended a NATO summit in April and said last week that it would accept Mr. Boumediene.

Mr. Boumediene was the second detainee transferred to a third-party country under the Obama administration, after Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed was sent to Britain in February.

Seven French citizens who were at Guantanamo were sent home in 2004 and 2005.

In June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Boumediene v. Bush that foreign Guantanamo Bay detainees have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in civilian courts.

On a 5-4 split, the majority said that the U.S. government was violating the rights of prisoners there and that the system the Bush administration put in place to classify suspects as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.

Mr. Boumediene was released as Mr. Obama announced that he is reviving Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, with several new legal protections for terror suspects. The system is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees now being held at the detention center.

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