Sufyian Barhoumi is a 43-year-old Algerian man born and raised in Algiers, where his mother still lives and his late father practiced law. He has been held at Guantánamo since June 2002. As a young man, Sufyian lived in various countries in Europe – Spain, France, and England – as a farm worker and then a street merchant for about four years.
Sufyian was charged by military commission three times, but each time the charges were dropped. Sufyian believes his chance connection to a man named Abu Zubaydah is the reason he has been the subject of so much interest from the military and its prosecutors. Sufyian was arrested on March 28, 2002, in a raid on a large house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. That raid led to the capture of Zubaydah who was mistakenly regarded by the Bush administration as a senior figure in al-Qaeda and was the first victim of the torture program for so-called "high-value detainees," even though, as a former Justice Department official told The Washington Post, he "was not ... an official member of al-Qaeda," and was, instead, "a kind of travel agent" for would-be jihadists. During Zubaydah's time in CIA detention he was water-boarded 83 times and subjected to numerous other torture techniques including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, and being sealed into small boxes. Under torture Zubaydah falsely stated that dozens of other men held by the United States were involved in terrorism.
Sufyian is one of the best-liked prisoners among both his fellow detainees and the guards, always meeting visitors with a smile, and now speaks a fair amount of English. One of the most avid soccer players in a prison full of enthusiasts, he regards himself as the best striker in Guantánamo. He has been described as "highly compliant" by the prison authorities and told The Wall Street Journal, "I don't have a black heart against America." Sufyian seeks to put the past behind him and look only to the future. He hopes to be reunited with his family in Algeria and dreams of going into business with his brothers.
On May 26, 2016, Sufyian's status was reviewed by President Obama's Period Review Board (PRB), which is tasked with determining whether detainees may be approved for transfer. On August 9, 2016, the Board approved Sufyian for transfer. In the final days of Obama's presidency, Barhoumi filed and was denied an emergency motion for an order that would permit his transfer before President Obama's term expired. He is one of five cleared men who remain detained at Guantánamo.