PARIS (AP) - 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, 43-year-old Lakhdar Boumediene was released Friday and flew to France.
The French government has arranged for medical care if needed, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said. Boumediene has been on a hunger strike since 2006 and was force-fed at the prison camp, his lawyers say.
Boumediene, suspected in a bomb plot against the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, was arrested along with five other Algerians in 2001 in Bosnia.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Boumediene was released after an interagency review, and thanked France for agreeing to take him in.
"The assistance of our international allies is critical to the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," said Matthew Olsen, executive director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force. "We commend the leadership (France and the European Union) have demonstrated on this important issue."
President Barack Obama has promised to close the prison at Guantanamo and has urged allies to take 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 Obama attended a NATO summit in April, and said last week it would accept Boumediene.
Boumediene requested to come to France because he has family here, Chevallier said. French officials would not provide details about his immediate whereabouts in France after his arrival, citing security reasons.
"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," Chevallier said. "Now that he is free, we hope that Lakhdar Boumediene can resume a normal life."
Stephen Oleskey, a Boston-based attorney for Boumediene, told AP that he could not immediately comment on Friday's release.
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 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.
Boumediene was released as 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.
Human rights activists hailed Boumediene's arrival in France.
"We welcome (France's) decision to take him in and urge France to give all the support that Mr. Boumediene needs in terms of protection and care," said Jean-Marie Fardeau, director of the Paris office of Human Rights Watch, who lobbied the French government to take in Guantanamo inmates.
"We hope that this is a first inmate taken in in France, and that others will follow, and that other countries will follow," he said.
Others were hostile to the release.
"Boumediene has admitted to associating with al-Qaida," Kirk S. Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole and a fellow at Military Families United, said in a statement. "Instead of detaining Boumediene and holding him accountable for his actions, the Obama Administration has released him in France on the U.S. taxpayers' dime."
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.
So far, France has only pledged to take in one non-French Guantanamo inmate, Boumediene. Several EU countries have refused, in part for security reasons.
Seven French citizens who were at Guantanamo were sent home in 2004 and 2005.
Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.
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