|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-321690 US-Guantanamo Release (L-only)
TITLE=U.S.-GUANTANAMO RELEASE (L-ONLY)
BYLINE= DAVID GOLLUST
///EDS: MAY BE USED AS ALTERNATE TO MIKE DRUDGE'S CR 2-321676///
HEADLINE: U.S. to Transfer Four British Nationals, an Australian from Guantanamo
INTRO: The United States has reached agreement with the British and Australian governments for the transfer of custody of four British nationals and an Australian from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. More than 200 terrorist suspects have been released or transferred to date. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
TEXT: The United States is releasing the five detainees after getting assurances that the two governments will take all appropriate steps to prevent them from becoming security threats after their handover.
The decision applies to all four British nationals held at the special prison at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba and one of the two Australian citizens being held there.
The United States continues to hold more than 500 detainees at Guantanamo, most of them alleged members or supporters of al Qaida or the Taleban taken into custody after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said both governments, allies in the war against terrorism, have addressed U.S. concerns about any remaining security threat posed by the transfer:
"Our view is that these two nations are important allies in the war on terrorism, that they understand the importance of maintaining the security of our nations, and that they will act responsibly. They have given us assurances that they will take all appropriate legal steps to prevent a security threat emanating from these individuals after their release."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw earlier told in parliament in London that the four Britons will be returned in the next few weeks, and that British police will consider then whether to arrest them for questioning on possible terrorist activity.
The detainees' families and human rights activists had campaigned for their freedom and welcomed the agreement.
The foreign affairs spokesman for Britain's opposition Liberal Democrat Party, Menzies (Pron: MING-us) Campbell, said the four men had been denied due process and that their detention violated all legal principle.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the Defense Department cannot indefinitely detain foreigners as suspected terrorists without telling them the charges and giving them access to U.S. courts to contest their detentions.
The U.S. military has recently begun to formally notify some prisoners that they have the legal right to contest the lawfulness of their detentions, though lawyers for detainees say the process is going too slowly.
Spokesman Boucher said the United States has to date transferred or released more than 200 Guantanamo detainees to France, Spain, Russia, Saudi Arabia and several other countries and hopes to transfer additional individuals. He said whether or not this happens depends on the facts of each case. (Signed)
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