updated 5/15/2009 3:15:29 PM ET 2009-05-15T19:15:29

The United States on Friday released the Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was at the center of a Supreme Court battle giving detainees the right to challenge their confinement, an Obama administration official said.

Lakhdar Boumediene left the U.S. naval facility in Cuba Friday headed to relatives in France, said the official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the release was not yet cleared for announcement.

Boumediene was arrested along with five other Algerians in 2001 in Bosnia, suspected in a bomb plot against the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. He arrived in Guantanamo in January 2002.

President Barack Obama has promised to close the prison at Guantanamo and has urged allies to help take prisoners from there. France promised to take one Guantanamo prisoner when Obama attended the NATO summit in April and said last week it would accept Boumediene.

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.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

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.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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