Asian Muslims welcome Obama's move on Guantanamo Bay | world | Hindustan Times
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Asian Muslims welcome Obama's move on Guantanamo Bay

world Updated: Jan 21, 2009 17:20 IST

President Barack Obama's call for a suspension of military trials at the controversial US camp at Guantanamo Bay raised hopes in Muslim countries in Asia Wednesday that the prison would be shut down.

Military judges were expected to rule later Wednesday on the request from Obama, one of his first acts as president since his inauguration on Tuesday.

In Afghanistan, the office of President Hamid Karzai could not comment on the suspension of the trials but reiterated calls for the prison to be closed.

"In principle we welcome the decision by the new government of America and president Obama himself, who earlier had said that they will close down Guantanamo Bay prison," Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told AFP.

The United States launched its "war on terror" with the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime for sheltering Al-Qaeda.

Hundreds of suspected militants were rounded up, Afghans and non-Afghans, and packed off to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and other US detention facilities.

Afghans say many of the men rounded up as "enemy combatants" were innocent and the prisons, Guantanamo in particular, have become a hated symbol of US excesses in the "war on terror".

Sixty-three Afghans have been released from Guantanamo Bay in the past four years, said Mohammad Akram Mir Hazar, president of an Afghan commission that has been campaigning for the release of detainees.

Another 35 were still there, Hazar told AFP.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the country's main Islamist party said Obama's move towards suspending cases before Guantanamo Bay courts was "good".

Khurshid Ahmed, a senior leader in the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami, also welcomed a pledge from Obama to seek a "new way forward" with the Muslim world.

Without commenting on the prospective suspension of trials, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it wanted the five Pakistanis held at the camp repatriated as soon as possible.

In Indonesia, around 20 human rights activists rallied in Jakarta, calling for Obama to immediately close Guantanamo Bay.

Makarim Wibisono, a former Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations, said Obama's call on Wednesday was "a good sign leading to the closure of the camp."

"That was one of Obama's promises during his campaign. I hope this will move forward and the new US leadership is more sensitive to humanity and human rights," he said.