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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 19:32 GMT
UK terror suspects to be released
Cuba detainees
The detainees have been held for two years without trial
Five of the UK terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are to be released, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

Nine Britons have been among more than 660 terror suspects held at the US base on Cuba for two years without trial.

Families of the Britons have long pushed ministers to do more to return them to the UK, saying they have been in a legal black hole.

Mr Straw said the five would be flown home in the next few weeks and police would decide whether to arrest them.

Names published

Most of the Britons are believed to have been arrested in Pakistan or Afghanistan as suspected al-Qaeda or Taleban fighters.

Mr Straw said it would be up to the police initially and then the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether they would face any charges under anti-terrorism laws in the British courts.

DETAINEES BEING RELEASED
Shafiq Rasul, 24, of Tipton, West Midlands
Asif Iqbal, 20, of Tipton
Ruhal Ahmed, 21, of Tipton
Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester
Tarek Dergoul, 24, from east London

The five men being released are: Shafiq Rasul, of Tipton, West Midlands; Asif Iqbal, of Tipton; Ruhal Ahmed, of Tipton; Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester, and Tarek Dergoul, from east London.

They do not include Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg, the two high-profile British detainees the US authorities say face potential trials before a military tribunal.

The announcement came shortly after news broke that a Danish man held for two years in Guantanamo Bay was to be released following talks with the US Government.

Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane, will not face charges in Denmark, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said.

A US State Department spokesman said some detainees were still dangerous and still had to be held.

"At the same time, we are trying to resolve and make determinations in as many cases as possible," he said.

There had been talks with the British Government on each case, he said, but it would be for British prosecutors to decide whether they faced court action.

Tribunals

Until now, ministers have said the detainees would either face trial before the US military tribunals or return home.

British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has been in talks with the US authorities since last July about securing fair trials for the detainees held in Cuba.

BRITISH MEN STILL BEING HELD
Moazzam Begg, 36, from Birmingham
Feroz Abbasi, 23, from south London
Martin Mubanga, 29, from north London
Richard Belmar, 23, from London

Mr Straw said "some progress" had been made over the tribunals.

But Lord Goldsmith believed the military commissions "as presently constituted would not provide the type of process which we would afford British nationals", said Mr Straw.

He defended the Guantanamo detentions, saying: "As a result valuable information has been gained which has helped to protect the international community from further al-Qaeda and terrorist attacks."

Peter Clarke, head of anti-terrorism at Scotland Yard, said each of the released men's cases would be examined individually.

"This process has built in safeguards and is subject to independent scrutiny to ensure that all individuals are treated fairly and properly," he said.

'British Guantanamo'

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: "This is progress but it is not yet a solution."

There was still uncertainty about the detainees left in Cuba and the fate of the released men once they reached Britain, he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The utter disregard that the US government has shown for its own laws as well as international laws has been breathtaking
Katherine, London

Azmat Begg, father of detainee Moazzam, said he was very sad his son was not among the men being released.

"I will keep on doing whatever I have to do to get him released - I will not stop," said Mr Begg, who is part of a lobby group travelling to Washington next month.

Defence lawyer Clive Stafford Smith also welcomed the releases, but he told BBC News 24 it looked like a "cynical exercise" to stave off action in the US Supreme Court against the detentions.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said she was delighted about the releases but argued the other prisoners should not be forgotten.

She urged the government to take action on its "own Guantanamo" - the 14 foreign suspects being held at Belmarsh prison without charges under anti-terrorist laws.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"The Americans are signalling there is a way out of Guantanamo"


Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"We are continuing to discuss the situation of the other four British detainees"



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