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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 13:05 GMT
Camp X-Ray inmates 'may go home'
Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay
More than 250 suspects are being held in Cuba
The United States would be willing to eventually send non-American prisoners held at Camp X-Ray back to their home countries - as long as they faced prosecution there, it is reported.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay base on Cuba could be repatriated on certain conditions.

I have no desire to fill up our jails and spend time and money holding people

Donald Rumsfeld
As well as being prosecuted, they would have to be made available to the US for further questioning, he said.

Citizens of at least 11 countries, amongst them five Britons, make up the 250-plus al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects held at the US naval base in southern Cuba after being seized in Afghanistan.

Mr Rumsfeld said he would send prisoners back to be dealt with in their countries of origin provided this did not mean "turning them loose... and having them go get more airplanes" to use for terror attacks such as those of 11 September.

Legal challenge

His goal was to have as few prisoners "as humanly possible" remaining in US hands, once they had been interrogated, he said.

"When we have got out of them the information that we feel has been appropriate we will very likely let as many countries as possible have any of their nationals they would like.

Shafiq Rasul
Shafiq Rasul is one of the Britons being held
"They can handle the prosecution. I have no desire to fill up our jails and spend time and money holding people."

Liberal Demcrats' foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "If the British captives are delivered into the custody of government they can only be prosecuted if there is adequate evidence to show that they have committed criminal offences under our law."

He added: "They would also be entitled to the presumption of innocence and proper representation."

Earlier this month, lawyers acting for the families of two Britons held in Camp X-Ray filed court papers in the US demanding their release.

A writ of habeas corpus was filed in Washington DC for Asif Iqbal, 20, and Shafiq Rasul, 24, both of whom were captured in Afghanistan.

Their legal team wants the US Government to either justify its detention of the two men, both of Tipton, West Midlands, by bringing charges against them, or free them.

The other Britons being held are Ruhal Ahmed, 20, also from Tipton, web designer Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester and Feroz Abbasi, 22, from Croydon, Surrey.

The BBC's June Kelly
"Lawyers... argue their detention is unlawful"
See also:

12 Feb 02 | Americas
UN speaks out on Afghan detainees
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