US hands over last French Guantanamo detainees

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 8 (AFP) - The last three French 'war on terror' detainees at the US Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba were being held in France Tuesday after being returned home under an agreement between the two governments.

PARIS, March 8 (AFP) - The last three French 'war on terror' detainees at the US Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba were being held in France Tuesday after being returned home under an agreement between the two governments.

A French military plane carrying Ridouane Khalid, Khaled Ben Mustafa and Mustaq Ali Patel from the US navy base in Cuba landed near Paris late Monday evening, a legal source said.

The three were immediately taken into custody on the orders of magistrates Jean-Louis Brugiere and Jean-Francois Ricard as part of "investigations into criminal association relating to terrorist activities," said a Paris prosecutors' office statement.

They can be held until Friday evening under court rules.

The three were being held at a detention centre of the DST, the French domestic counter-intelligence agency, for questioning about their activities before their arrest at the time of the American intervention in Afghanistan at the end of 2001.

The US Defence Department confirmed that it had "transferred three detainees from Guantanamo Bay Cuba to France for prosecution," raising the number of detainees who have been moved out of the base to 211.

An agreement on the transfer of the three was reached last month during a visit to Paris by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Four French men were sent back from Guantanamo in July. They are also detained facing charges of terrorist conspiracy. They are suspected of spending time in Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and belonging to a network that recruited Islamic militants.

Of the latest prisoners sent back to France, Khalid, 36, has two brothers already under investigation for alleged terrorism-related crimes.

Ben Mustafa, 33, who is a married father of two, went to Afghanistan to learn Arabic, according to his family and lawyers.

Patel, who is aged about 40, was born in India but has French nationality through his marriage to a woman from La Reunion. He was reported to have been an imam at a French mosque before going to Afghanistan and has family in Britain.

There are about 540 detainees from 40 countries at the Camp X-Ray maximum security facility at Guantanamo. Most were detained in Afghanistan following the US-led campaign to topple the Taliban and catch Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The United States has stepped up transfers from Guantanamo to its allies in recent months, as criticism of the camp and the legal action taken against the inmates has mounted.

The last four British detainees at Camp X-Ray were sent back in January.

They have not been detained but British authorities have refused to give them a passport. The Pentagon said the four still posed a threat.

Several former Guantanamo detainees have alleged they were tortured or abused at the camp. This has been denied by US authorities but the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, discussed the treatment of prisoners during a recent meeting with US President George W. Bush in Washington.

The ICRC has also been at odds with the United States about the status of prisoners held in Guantanamo since the conflict in Afghanistan.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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