US to hand over last French Guantanamo inmates

8th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 8 (AFP) - The United States and France have agreed to repatriate the last three French citizens being held prisoner in the US military base of Guantanamo in Cuba, various sources told AFP Tuesday.

PARIS, Feb 8 (AFP) - The United States and France have agreed to repatriate the last three French citizens being held prisoner in the US military base of Guantanamo in Cuba, various sources told AFP Tuesday.

The agreement in principle was given before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris later Tuesday.

"The United States has given its agreement" but no date was fixed for the hand over, an official close to the case who requested anonymity told AFP.

A lawyer for Mustaq Ali Patel, one of the three Frenchmen being held at Guantanamo, said details were still being worked out for the repatriation.

"The discussions are going in the right direction and are currently looking at how they will be returned," said the lawyer, William Bourdon.

Patel, an Indian-born man in his 40s who acquired French nationality through marriage, was arrested at the end of 2001 in Afghanistan, where he had been living for several years.

The other two French citizens held at Guantanamo are Ridouane Khalid, 36, the brother of two men arrested in France last year on suspicion of hiding terrorist funds and recruiting for Chechen militants; and Khaled Ben Mustafa, 33, who was arrested in Afghanistan where his family said he was learning Arabic in an Islamic school.

Four other Frenchmen who had been held at Guantanamo after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 were transferred to France in July last year, where they remain in custody while being investigated on suspicion for associating with criminals "in relation to a terrorist enterprise".

A US federal judge on January 31 ruled that military trials US President George W. Bush's government intended to mount against the estimated 550 prisoners from 20 countries remaining at Guantanamo were unconstitutional because they did not provide due process.

Judge Joyce Green said some of the prisoners had had their Geneva Conventions rights violated, no legal access to evidence used against them and that the US government had tended to rely on statements obtained by torture.

The US Justice Department has lodged an appeal against the ruling.

Human rights groups have expressed strong concern about the legal limbo the prisoners at Guantanamo were living in because of Washington's insistence that they were "illegal combatants" - a vaguely defined term - and that the Guantanamo base was not technically US territory because it was leased from Cuba.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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