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April 29, 2009

USA to release 30 terror detainees

POLITICS - About 30 detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for release, United States Attorney General Eric Holder said today as he tried to persuade European allies to take some of them. Holder also signalled the Obama administration might co-operate with a Spanish investigation of former Bush administration officials over the mistreatment of suspects.

The Guantanamo Bay military detention facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba is set to close in January 2010 and all the detainees have to be either be put on trial, or released due to sheer lack of evidence, between now and then.

"We have about 30 or so where we've made the determination that they can be released. So we will, I think, relatively soon, be reaching out to specific countries with specific detainees and ask whether or not there might be a basis for the moving of those people from Guantanamo to those countries," says Holder.

There are 241 prisoners at Guantanamo and Holder says "Mistakes were made" when the Bush administration created the program in the wake of September 11th.

The problem is what to do with people who have now turned out to be innocent. Yet when it comes to the prospect of having former international terror suspects living free, the Obama administration is trying to overcome the not-in-my-backyard sentiment that exists both in the USA and overseas.

There is also worry if new homes cannot be found for them, they may be given new status as Americans and sue the United States over their mistreatment.

So far only Portugal and Lithuania have said they will consider taking former suspects. France has agreed to take in only one symbolic Guantanamo detainee. Others are divided on the issue.

Pressed on whether that meant the U.S. would co-operate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about requests, and would review any such request to see if the United States would comply. Several countries want to see George W. Bush tried for alleged war crimes.

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