British-linked Guantanamo inmates to be freed: lawyer

Other News Materials 9 December 2007 04:08 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Four British-linked detainees in Guantanamo Bay are to be released, their lawyer said Saturday, insisting they posed no threat to security as rights campaigners renewed demands for the US camp's closure.

Clive Stafford Smith confirmed a BBC report that all but one of five inmates who were previously resident in Britain are set to be freed, although he would not forecast when.

"There's no doubt that the agreement has been struck, that they will return home, the question is, when?" he said. "There's no reason why they couldn't come home tomorrow, but the US are insisting on a lot of red tape."

Jamil El Banna , Omar Deghayes and Abdennour Samuer will return to Britain, while Shaker Aamer will return to his native Saudi Arabia, the BBC report said.

A fifth man, Ethiopian citizen Binyam Mohamed, will remain at the controversial "war on terror" prison camp.

The men are not British citizens but all lived in the country legally before being detained at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba. All British nationals detained in the prison camp were released by January 2005.

Stafford Smith said he expected British police would want to see the four on their return, but insisted they posed no threat to the country's security.

"I am sure they will be briefly questioned, but equally sure they will be released. There is no reason to detain them," he said. "The police are welcome to ask them all the questions they want.

"If people are concerned about any of them, be my guest, investigate them, charge them if you want, give them a fair trial, and at the end of any fair trial, they will be acquitted.

That was "because they are not a threat to Britain in any way," he said.

A Foreign Office spokesman would not confirm the reports but said negotiations were ongoing. "We are not going to speculate or comment on where the discussions that we are having with the Americans have got to," he told AFP.

In August, Foreign Secretary David Miliband requested that the five residents be returned, reversing London's previous stance of refusing to get involved in the cases of residents without British nationality.

The Home Office declined to comment specifically, but said all necessary security measures would be taken.

"The home secretary and the government are foremost fully committed to protecting the national security of the UK," said a spokeswoman.

"Should individuals be returned to the UK, the same security considerations would apply to them as would apply to any other foreign national in this country. "

Rights groups welcomed the announcement, but said Guantanamo must be closed.

"The essential principle is that we should be pressing our closest ally to shut the whole thing down," said Shami Chakrabarti , head of rights group Liberty.

The BBC, which did not give a source for its story, said an announcement was expected within weeks.

Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the main opposition Conservatives' security spokeswoman, warned that government reassurances would be needed, because the men were still regarded as suspects by the US authorities.

"In particular they need to tell us if these people, whom the Pentagon describe as 'dangerous', are going to be released when they get back to Britain," she said.