Benamar Benatta, believed to be the last remaining domestic detainee from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was released yesterday after negotiations involving Canada, the United States and his attorneys ended his captivity at nearly five years.
Benatta crossed the border from the United States to Canada, where he will be allowed to resume the bid for political asylum that resulted in his detention shortly before the terrorist attacks.
The Algerian air force lieutenant spent more than 58 months behind bars even though the FBI formally concluded in November 2001 that he had no connection to terrorism.
He was among more than 1,200 mainly Muslim men who were arrested after the attacks and held under tight security while authorities scoured their backgrounds for links to terrorist groups. It is believed that Benatta was the last to be released, though it is difficult to be certain because of the secrecy that surrounded some of the cases.
"This is the result of an individual being labeled a terrorist and the government treating him as such," Benatta's attorney Catherine Amirfar said yesterday. "He was fully cleared by the FBI of any connection to terrorism . . . but the label stuck, so a man with no previous criminal record was detained for a visa overstay."