Guantanamo prisoner families head for US

3rd March 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 2 (AFP) - Families of British, German and French prisoners held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp will travel to the United States this week to appeal to the president for their release, a French politician said Tuesday.

PARIS, March 2 (AFP) - Families of British, German and French prisoners held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp will travel to the United States this week to appeal to the president for their release, a French politician said Tuesday.

Urging stronger French action to obtain their release, communist parliamentary deputy Andre Gerina told journalists: "We want the French authorities to end their embarrassed silence.

"The seven Frenchmen held illegally in Guantanamo must be allowed to return home to France."

Gerina is also mayor of Venissieux, home town of two French detainees, Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi.

Gerina will travel this Saturday to Washington DC with Sassi's family, together with three British families and one German family on a trip organised by the Commission for Guantanamo Human Rights, recently set up in London.

Former British hostage in Lebanon Terry Waite will be in the group, which will also visit United Nations headquarters in New York.

British actor Corin Redgrave, brother of the actress Vanessa Redgrave, who helped to set up the prisoners' rights group, told journalists here the delegation would submit families' letters to the White House and address an appeal directly to President George W. Bush on the prisoners' fate.

The team is also planning to meet Democratic Party presidential hopeful John Kerry, who has criticised the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"Our message is very simple," Redgrave told journalists: "America has given the world a model of democracy which is founded on the rule of law, on fundamantal human rights, including the right to fair trial, the right to silence."

"Guantanamo offers an alternative model to the world, a model where no rights are sustained."

He warned of the danger that Guantanamo would be a model for more and more countries to copy.

About 660 men have been detained at the Guantanamo US naval base, most of them captured in Afghanistan since the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

So far, 88 detainees have been released and 12 have been transferred to their home countries for continued detention.

Attorneys of two of the Frenchmen held noted that British, Russian and Danish detainees had been released, but the French prisoners were still being held.

"The French government has distinguished itself by complete inaction," said lawyer Jacques Debray: "Although no charges have been preferred against the French, there is no indication of their early release."

A second lawyer, William Bourdon, suggested the French prisoners might be "collateral damage" in strains in French-US relations after France criticised the invasion of Iraq.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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