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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Guantanamo inmates 'to be freed'
A prisoner at Guantanamo Bay
Treatment at the camp has been internationally condemned
The American authorities say they are going to release a small number of detainees from the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said those to be freed were no longer considered a threat, or of further use to the intelligence services.


If you don't want them for intelligence and you don't want them for law enforcement and you don't need to keep them off the street, then let's be rid of them

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
But he gave no details of how many would be freed or when.

Almost 600 men, described by the United States as terrorist suspects, have been detained at the camp without trial since the fall of Afghanistan's Taleban rulers.

"If you don't want them for intelligence and you don't want them for law enforcement and you don't need to keep them off the street, then let's be rid of them," Mr Rumsfeld said.

Rights denied

Mr Rumsfeld said other government agencies were being consulted, and that any released would either be handed over to their home governments or set free.

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
Inmates will be returned home or freed

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says that the fate of the 598 prisoners has been a focus of considerable controversy.

Their treatment at the camp - where they were often held in leg-irons and blindfolded - has brought strong international criticism from around the world.

The US Government has insisted that the detainees, who come from 43 countries, are illegal combatants not prisoners of war.

They were denied the protection of the Geneva Convention and the government has reserved the right to try them before secret tribunals or impose the death penalty.

One Afghan prisoner was repatriated in April after doctors declared that he was mentally ill.

One other prisoner, Yaser Esam Hamdi, was sent to a Navy prison in Norfolk, Virginia, after authorities learned he was born in Louisiana to Saudi parents and could therefore be considered an American citizen.

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The BBC's Nick Childs
"The releases haven't begun yet"

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16 Oct 02 | Americas
24 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
27 Jun 02 | Americas
30 Apr 02 | Americas
29 Jan 02 | Americas
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