WASHINGTON – The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don’t want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.

The administration secured a significant legal victory Thursday when a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had barred the government from repatriating one of them. The detainee had asserted that if he is returned, the Algerian government will torture him or he will be targeted by terrorist groups who will kill him if he refuses to join.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had ruled that the claims of Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, 49, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than eight years, “are of great concern.” She said the court must ensure that there is “real substance” behind any diplomatic assurances obtained by the administration that detainees repatriated to Algeria will be treated humanely.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned Kessler Thursday, granting the government’s emergency appeal. Much of the litigation is sealed, but the government argues that legal precedent makes clear the executive branch’s prerogative to decide where to transfer a detainee.

Mohammed’s attorneys declined to comment. Human rights activists said they would appeal, possibly to the Supreme Court.