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France may take in Algerian Guantanamo inmate: US official

world Updated: Apr 03, 2009 12:57 IST

AFP
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France is considering taking in an Algerian detainee of the Guantanamo “war on terror” prison that US President Barack Obama vowed to close by January, two sources said on Thursday.

“Negotiations about an Algerian” being released by US authorities and received by France were underway, a source familiar with the discussions between France and the State Department told AFP on condition of anonymity.

France was considering taking in an Algerian detainee “because there are historic links between France and Algeria,” a US official said.

Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy are due to hold bilateral talks Friday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, one day after the pair attended a crunch meeting of the Group of 20 major developed and developing economies in London.

Neither source would describe the timeframe being considered for the transfer to France, but the US official said that “nobody is going to be transferred before we take people (in).”

The remark appears to allude to the 17 Chinese Uighurs still held at Guantanamo Bay in southern Cuba, despite being cleared of wrongdoing.

The Defense Department and State Department have tried unsuccessfully for several years to arrange their transfer to a third country, due to concerns that the Uighurs may face persecution if they return to China.

Two Algerian nationals Lakhdar Boumediene, 42, and Saber Lahmar, 39 who have been detained at the controversial US military prison camp for the past seven years were among five cleared for release last November by a US judge who ruled they were illegally detained.

Boumediene has been on a hunger strike for the past two years.

The two were among six Guantanamo inmates with dual Algerian-Bosnian nationalities who were arrested in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 2001 and initially charged with plotting to attack the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Those charges were dropped.

But when the men were granted a November “habeas corpus” trial to contest the charges under which they were being held, they were accused of planning to head to Afghanistan to fight US forces.

Three of the six were released from Guantanamo to their adopted homeland Bosnia in December the first Guantanamo inmates released by the administration of then-president George W Bush under a judge’s orders.

A judge ruled that the sixth Guantanamo inmate, also from Algeria and arrested with the others in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 2001, had been legally detained.

Some 245 prisoners currently remain at Guantanamo.