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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 22:00 GMT
Guantanamo Frenchmen 'to go home'
Guantanamo Bay prisoners
There are about 540 inmates at the US facility in Cuba
The US has agreed to send home the last three French citizens held at the American prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, French officials say.

The news came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Paris for talks with President Jacques Chirac.

The date and details of the hand-over of Mustaq Ali Patel, Ridouane Khalid and Khaled Ben Mustafa have not been finalised, the officials said.

"Things are headed in the right direction," Mr Patel's lawyer said.

French detention

Two of the trio are reported to have been picked up in Afghanistan.

All three are expected to be presented on arrival to judges who investigate terrorism, and they risk being held while their cases are investigated.

Four other French citizens once held at Guantanamo Bay and returned to France last July are being held as part of an investigation into suspected terror networks.

A US federal judge ruled last month that special military tribunals being used to try detainees at the Cuban base are illegal.

Many of the 540 or so inmates have been held without charge and access to lawyers since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

They are suspected members of al-Qaeda or the Taleban, and the US government accuses them of being "illegal combatants".

Four Britons and an Australian, held for more than three years, were allowed to return to their home countries in January without having to go before a military tribunal.

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