Two former Guantanamo detainees land in Germany: minister

16th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two former inmates of the US prison camp in Guantanamo have arrived in Germany, the interior minister said Thursday, after nearly nine years in the disputed detention centre.

In July, after months of deliberation, Germany agreed to accept the pair in response to US President Barack Obama request for allies' help to close the lockup in Cuba.

"The two former Guantanamo prisoners have now arrived in Germany," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement, adding that they touched down "in the middle of this week."

The first, a stateless 34-year-old man of Palestinian origin, landed in Hamburg in northern Germany. The second man, from Syria, arrived in the southwestern region of Rhineland-Palatinate.

"The regional authorities concerned have promised to do everything to allow the two people a new start in Germany," said de Maiziere.

Both had expressed the wish not to be hounded by the media, he added.

"After nearly nine years in Guantanamo, this is understandable and we should all respect this," the minister said.

The Palestinian was detained in 2001 in Afghanistan and has been interned without charge in Guantanamo since 2002. He has expressed a desire to raise a family in Germany, said regional authorities in Hamburg.

He will not be under police supervision, they added.

Officials in Rhineland-Palatinate provided no details about the second man.

Late last year, the United States asked Germany to take in three detainees.

A German delegation travelled to Guantanamo in March and spoke with the men. On the basis of these interviews, de Maiziere said he accepted two but rejected the third candidate, giving no further details.

Berlin's decision followed months of heated public debate and de Maiziere said at the time that Germany has no intention of accepting further detainees.

US President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the military prison by January after it became a symbol for excesses in the "war on terror".

Washington has asked allies to help resettle prisoners who have been cleared of all charges but cannot return home, often over fears they may be tortured.

But their reluctance has been a key obstacle in closing the site.

© 2010 AFP

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