[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Guantanamo inmates back in France
Guantanamo inmate clutches prayer beads
Nearly 600 inmates remain in Guantanamo
Four French nationals captured by US troops in Afghanistan have been transferred home from the US military base in Guantanamo Bay.

The detainees - among seven Frenchmen seized during the war against the Taleban in late 2001 - arrived at the Evreux air base, west of Paris.

President Jacques Chirac said the handover was as a result of "long discussions" with Washington.

The men are expected to appear before a French anti-terrorism magistrate.

Nearly 600 prisoners from the US "war on terror" are still held at Guantanamo naval base in Cuba.

Questioning

The four touched down on French soil on Tuesday, only to be taken directly into custody by police working for France's counter-intelligence agency, the DST.

"Long and intensive discussions have resulted in the return to France of four nationals detained in Guantanamo," President Chirac told reporters on a visit to Madagascar.

They "will of course be handed over to (French) justice authorities," he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

GUANTANAMO NUMBERS
Guantanamo guard
Estimated 590 terror suspects from about 40 countries held
139 already released
12 "transferred for continued detention" in home countries
Four detainees charged
Officials named the four as Mourad Benchellali, Imad Kanouni, Nizar Sassi and Brahim Yadel.

A lawyer for two of the freed detainees expressed concern about his clients.

"The last we heard suggested they were in a poor psychological condition," lawyer Jacques Debray said.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the case of the seven French Guantanamo detainees has failed to arouse much public sympathy in the country - although there has been widespread indignation over what many French people see as abuse of prisoners' human rights at the base.

While the French authorities have been keen to remove the men from US custody, they are equally keen to interrogate them themselves, our correspondent adds.

The four are expected to appear before France's chief anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, in the coming days.

In France terror suspects can be held for questioning for up to four days, after which they must either be released or placed under investigation.

Correspondent Hugh Schofield says that if they are placed under investigation and ordered to be detained until trial, the whole process - judging by past experience - could take years.

The French foreign ministry says discussions are continuing with the US authorities "with a view to obtaining as quickly as possible the release of the other [three] French prisoners at Guantanamo".

Those remaining in Guantanamo are Ridouane Khalid, Khaled Ben Mustafa and Mustaq Ali Patel, officials said.

Pentagon review

Before the latest transfers, 594 detainees were being held at Guantanamo.

In another development, the Pentagon has announced that it will begin to review the cases of the remaining detainees this week.

The military is preparing hearing rooms inside trailers in the Camp Delta prison at Guantanamo, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

The US military set up the "Combatant Status Review Tribunals" following a Supreme Court ruling enabling inmates to challenge their detention through the US legal system.

During the review process detainees:

  • can testify and request affidavits from witnesses

  • will not have defence lawyers, but a "personal representative" instead - a military officer who is not bound by rules of confidentiality and can pass on any incriminating evidence provided by the detainees for use in future trials

  • will not have access to classified information in their files. However, their representative is supposed to give them an unclassified explanation of the case against them, the US navy secretary said.

Pentagon officials reckon that the tribunals are going to get through probably three detainee cases a day, hoping to complete the reviews in two to three months


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"For the time being they will be kept in detention"



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific