France agrees to take Guantanamo inmate

4th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A US official in Washington had said earlier that France was considering taking in an Algerian detainee ‘because there are historic links between France and Algeria.’

Strasbourg -- President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that France had agreed to accept a prisoner from the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, which is to be closed down.

"Yes we have spoken, yes we have agreed" to accept one detainee, Sarkozy told reporters in Strasbourg, northeastern France, after talks with US President Barack Obama.

A US official in Washington had said earlier that France was considering taking in an Algerian detainee "because there are historic links between France and Algeria."

Algeria is a former French colony that secured its independence after a gruesome war that lasted from 1954 to 1962.

Two Algerian nationals -- Lakhdar Boumediene, 42, and Saber Lahmar, 39 -- have been detained at the controversial US military prison camp for the past seven years.

They 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 but rights group Amnesty International says he has been force-fed.

Sarkozy said he thought that Guantanamo, which Obama has vowed to close, was an affront to US values and expressed satisfaction that it would be shut.

"We don't combat terrorists with terrorist methods, we combat them with the methods of democracy," he said, ahead of a two-day NATO summit here and in the neighbouring German city of Kehl.

More than 800 men and teenagers have passed through Guantanamo since former US president George W. Bush opened it on January 11, 2002 as a destination for "war on terror" suspects in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Some 245 prisoners are still held there, with around 60 of them cleared for release. The United States is expected to ask other European nations to host some who cannot be sent back to homelands where they may face re-arrest.

But EU nations have widely differing laws and many are concerned at the prospect that some of their neighbours might allow potentially dangerous people into the vast 25-nation border-free area.

AFP/Expatica

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