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Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

U.S. to release Guantanamo prisoners

October 23, 2002


— The Pentagon plans to release some terror suspects from prison in Cuba because they are no longer threats and have no more intelligence information to offer, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

"There are some people likely to come out of the other end of the chute," he said, without disclosing how many would be released.

Some of the 598 men at the high-security prison built at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station have been held for nearly a year. They were first rounded up during the air war that opened the military campaign in Afghanistan, then transferred from Afghanistan to Cuba in January.

Until now, the only prisoners who have gotten out of the facility were a man who was mentally ill and an American moved to the United States for continued detention, officials said.

Rumsfeld said authorities were screening the prisoners to make sure they were not candidates for prosecution, no longer of any intelligence value and not threats to the United States and its allies. He didn't say when they might be released, but other sources said on condition of anonymity that it could happen within days.

The first batch to be released includes "a relatively small number" of men, Rumsfeld said, adding that he didn't know their nationalities.

At least some are expected to be sent home to Pakistan. The government there, which has been a major U.S. ally in the counter-terror war, says a visit to the prison turned up a number of Pakistanis who do not represent a threat to the United States.

The government has asked that the men be sent back.

"We vetted them and gave our assessment ... that some of the detainees did not pose a threat," Asad Hayauddin, spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, said Tuesday.

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