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Swiss consider asylum for Gitmo detainees

GENEVA – Switzerland on Wednesday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s suspension of military trials for terror suspects and said it was ready to consider granting asylum to detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

"For Switzerland, the incarceration of people in Guantanamo is against international law", the federal cabinet said in a statement after a weekly meeting in Bern.

"Switzerland is ready to consider in what concrete way it could contribute to resolving the problem of Guantanamo", it said.

"In concrete terms, the federal government is ready to study if — and to what degree — it could take charge of refugees who would be freed from Guantanamo", it added, underlining that it needed to carefully study the legal and security implications first.

Obama ordered a 120-day suspension of military trials for terror suspects held on the US military base in Cuba just hours after his inauguration on Tuesday, in one of his first acts as president.

The Swiss government said it informed Washington that it "welcomed President Obama’s will to close Guantanamo as soon as possible".

In November 2008, a Swiss lawyer for three inmates, an Algerian, a Libyan and a Chinese national, from Guantanamo Bay who were about to be released, said Swiss federal migration authorities rejected their asylum requests.

The Federal Office of Migration confirmed to AFP that a decision was made in the case but would not reveal its content.

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the reported decision.

Earlier Wednesday, Swiss parliamentarian and lawyer Dick Marty, a former Council of Europe investigator on CIA rendition flights, described the situation for Guantanamo detainees as "Kafkaesque".

"The problem is we don’t know how to close Guantanamo", Marty told the Swiss news agency ATS, calling on European countries to take in former inmates.

Most of the detainees would not be able to return to their home countries because of the suspicion and threat to their lives, he said.

Meanwhile, asylum in the United States would be unsound, and Washington might be exposed to lawsuits for illegal detention if it did allow them to stay, he added.

About 60 detainees at Guantanamo were slated for release or transfer in November 2008, but the United States said it was difficult to find countries to take them.

Obama’s announcement was widely praised in Europe.

However, a row broke out in Germany’s coalition government Wednesday over whether the country would accept prisoners released from Guantanamo.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Obama could not expect Germany to accept freed inmates, withdrawing an offer made by the foreign minister.

[AFP / Expatica]