France mulls taking in Algerian Guantanamo inmate

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France is considering taking in an Algerian detainee of the Guantanamo prison, reveals a US official.

WASHINGTON – France is considering taking in an Algerian detainee of the Guantanamo "war on terror" prison that US President Barack Obama has vowed to close by January, two sources said.

"Negotiations about an Algerian" being released by US authorities and received by France are underway, a source familiar with the discussions between France and the US State Department told AFP Thursday on condition of anonymity.

France is considering taking in an Algerian detainee "because there are historic links between France and Algeria," a US official said.

Algeria is a former French colony that secured its independence after a gruesome war that lasted from 1954 to 1962.

Two Algerian nationals – Lakhdar Boumediene, 42, and Saber Lahmar, 39 – who have been detained at the controversial US military prison camp for the past seven years were among five cleared for release last November by a US judge who ruled they were illegally detained.

Boumediene has been on a hunger strike for the past two years but Amnesty International says he has been force fed.

Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy are due to hold bilateral talks Friday on the sidelines of a NATO summit, one day after the pair attended a meeting of the Group of 20 major developed and developing economies in London.

Neither source would describe the timeframe being considered for the transfer to France, but the US official said that "nobody is going to be transferred before we take people (in)."

The remark seemed to refer to 17 Chinese Uighurs still held at Guantanamo Bay in southern Cuba, despite being cleared of wrongdoing.

The Defence Department and State Department have tried unsuccessfully for several years to arrange their transfer to a third country, due to concerns that the Uighurs – members of a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority – may face persecution if they return to China.

Boumediene and Lahmar were among six Guantanamo inmates who were arrested in Bosnia in 2001 and initially charged with plotting to attack the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Those charges were dropped, although a judge ruled that one of the prisoners from the group had been legally detained.

But when the men were granted a November "habeas corpus" trial to contest the charges under which they were being held, they were accused of planning to head to Afghanistan to fight US forces.

Three of the men, who held dual Algerian-Bosnian nationalities, were transferred to their adopted homeland Bosnia in December – the first Guantanamo inmates released by the administration of then president George W Bush under a judge's orders.

More than 800 men and teenagers have passed through Guantanamo since Bush opened it on 11 January 2002 as a destination for "war on terror" suspects in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Some 245 prisoners are still held at the detention centre.

AFP / Expatica

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