updated 8/24/2006 9:43:56 PM ET 2006-08-25T01:43:56

A German-born Turkish citizen held for more than four years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has returned to Germany after being released, his attorneys said Thursday.

Murat Kurnaz, 24, was flown to Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, where he was set free, attorney Bernhard Docke said in a statement.

"He is now again in the circle of his family," Docke said in the statement. "Their joy at embracing their lost son again is indescribable."

The U.S. Department of Defense said Kurnaz was turned over to German authorities Thursday afternoon after lengthy negotiations with the Germans. His transfer came as a result of an administrative review board last year and he was to be released, rather than detained in Germany.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. requested assurances from Germany that they would take appropriate steps to ensure Kurnaz does not pose a threat to the international community.

German officials — including Chancellor Angela Merkel — worked to secure the release of Kurnaz, who was born in the northern German city of Bremen but holds Turkish citizenship.

Kurnaz traveled in October 2001 to Pakistan, where he was detained by Pakistani authorities and then turned over to the United States. He has been held at Guantanamo in remote eastern Cuba since January 2002, and lawyers were first able to visit him in 2004.

Docke said that Kurnaz was refusing interviews while he adjusted to his new freedom and would also undergo a medical examination.

U.S. officials maintained that he was a member of al-Qaida, based on what they said was secret evidence. But a later review of declassified evidence in the case showed no indication he was connected to al-Qaida, the Taliban or any specific threat, his attorneys said.

Kurnaz left Bremen for Pakistan saying he wanted to study Islam for a few weeks, his mother said in a statement made as part of the review of his status by a U.S. military tribunal.

At first, Kurnaz found himself in diplomatic limbo when his family appealed to the German government to intervene on his behalf but was told it could not because he was not a citizen.

Kurnaz went to court in the United States to win his release, and a U.S. federal judge ruled in 2005 that the evidence was insufficient to justify his detention. But her ruling was stayed while the government appealed.

Merkel criticized Guantanamo during a visit to Washington and said it should be closed. Kurnaz's U.S. attorney, Baher Azmy, said she initiated diplomatic efforts to free him and that "his release appears to be the product of these discussions."

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