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Homeland Security

Georgia accepts 3 former Guantanamo Bay prisoners

RIA Novosti


TBILISI, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia has accepted three former inmates from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp under strategic partnership accords with Washington, a senior Georgian diplomat said on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged in his election campaign to close the controversial camp, located in southeast Cuba, but his administration has run into difficulties in finding alternatives for its inmates.

"The United States is Georgia's strategic partner and we cooperate on a wide range of issues. This is one area where Georgia and the United States cooperate," First Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgi Bokeria told reporters in Tbilisi.

The identities of the three detainees sent to Georgia are being withheld for security and privacy reasons, but the Georgian authorities said they are al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters who have never been charged with crimes.

"They were transferred [to Georgia] on Tuesday and will probably spend several years in the country living freely as ordinary citizens and will be allowed contact with their families," said Shota Utiashvili, an Interior Ministry official, in an interview with Rustavi-2 television.

He added that they did not pose any threat but would not be allowed to leave the country.

Georgia's parliamentary majority supported the government's decision despite opposition demands that the details of the transfer be clarified.

Tbilisi has long been seeking closer ties with the West as part of its foreign policy under President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Georgia has made a number of contributions to the NATO-led military campaign in Afghanistan, including the deployment of at least 700 troops as part of the international coalition fighting Taliban militants.

Saakashvili has recently offered Georgia's Black Sea ports to NATO military supply ships and its airports as refueling points for NATO cargo planes en route to Afghanistan.

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