Lawyers welcome FrenchGuantanamo detainees handover

12th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - The lawyers for several of the seven French "war on terror" detainees held at the Guantanamo military base in Cuba cautiously welcomed news that the United States will soon hand over some if not all of them to France.

PARIS, May 11 (AFP) - The lawyers for several of the seven French "war on terror" detainees held at the Guantanamo military base in Cuba cautiously welcomed news that the United States will soon hand over some if not all of them to France.

"It is a question of weeks," French Justice Minister Dominique Perben told a news conference in Washington after meeting US Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"A note has been sent to us by the American government, which is being
examined by France, to examine the conditions under which all or part of the French can return to France," Perben said.

"One can only welcome this," said Paul-Albert Iweins, an attorney for
36-year-old Ridouane Khalid, one of the seven French nationals.

"I hope there was no deal" on the condition for their return, he added.

"It is so crucial to pull them out of the legal black hole that this is not the time to argue over the conditions of a future deal which could result in detention for all them," said William Bourdon, a lawyer for two of the French detainees, Mourad Benchellali, 22, and Nizar Sassi, 23.

"Such a decision (detention) would be seen as unjust," he added.

"We are currently studying the legal framework under which this could
happen in the next few weeks," Perben said, adding that he wanted the return "as fast as possible".

He added that French authorities would look at each case to decide "the
legal situation of these people."

Jacques Debray, who is also defending Benchellali and Sassi, said all seven detainees should normally be handed over to French authorities as Washington has officially levelled no charges against any of them.

©AFP

Subject: French news

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