After 772 days, five Britons face freedom from Guantanamo Bay

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The Independent US

Five of the nine Britons held without trial by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay are to be returned to the United Kingdom, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, announced yesterday.

As their families celebrated their release, international concern focused on the plight of up to 660 terror suspects, including a further four Britons, still being held in the high-security camp.

The five freed British detainees at Camp Delta in Cuba will be flown home in the next few weeks after the Government admitted they posed no terror threat. To minimise the humiliation of its closest military ally, the White House allowed the Foreign Secretary to announce the news first.

Mr Straw said that police would consider whether they should face questioning under the Terrorism Act 2000. But within minutes of his statement, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said that "no one who is returned ... will actually be a threat to the security of the British people".

The Foreign Secretary said that discussions were continuing with the US authorities over the other four Britons but the Government still believed they "should be tried in accordance with international standards or returned to the UK".

The five to be released are Rhuhel Ahmed, 23, Tarek Dergoul, 24, Jamal al-Harith, 35, Asif Iqbal, 20, and Shafiq Rasul, 25.

The British detainees are among more than 600 prisoners who have been held in the US Navy base since being picked up for suspected links to al-Qa'ida or the Taliban in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan. There are 20 European citizens being detained, including six from France as well as nationals from Sweden and Germany.

The Bush administration has faced international condemnation about its decision to keep the men blindfolded and in manacles, and its failure to charge them or provide legal representation. It is alleged that some confessions have been extracted by torture. Just 87 prisoners have been released to date, including four Saudis and one Spaniard. A Danish man was released yesterday. The families of the British men have consistently protested the men's innocence. Critics pointed out that the lack of progress underlined the weakness of Mr Blair's claim to have a "special relationship" with the US. London and Washington have spent months locked in negotiations over the affair. In November 2002, the Court of Appeal said the British detainees were being held in a "legal black hole" and described their treatment as "objectionable". In the first clear indication of London's frustration with George Bush, Mr Straw said that Lord Goldsmith QC, the Attorney General, had rejected US proposals to try the remaining four Britons in US military tribunals.

"In the Attorney General's view, the military commissions, as presently constituted, would not provide the type of process which we would afford British nationals," he said.

The discussions that led to their release began in July when the US ruled that two of the other British detainees were eligible to be tried by military commissions. The four who will remain in Camp Delta are Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar. Almost all of the prisoners were picked up in Afghanistan or in Pakistan following the Anglo-American overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

Clive Stafford Smith, the British human rights lawyer representing a group of detainees, has challenged the legality of the prison in Guantanamo Bay in the US Supreme Court. He said the decision was a "cynical" attempt to avoid embarrassment over the court's likely ruling, which is expected in June - months before the US presidential election. "The US Supreme Court will say the Bush administration has been acting illegally," Mr Stafford Smith told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. "With the election set for November, George Bush doesn't want that from the court that put him in office in the first place."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "We are delighted that the five have been released, but let us not forget those that are remaining. Nor should we forget that Britain has its very own Guantanamo Bay at Belmarsh Prison, in south-east London, where 14 men have been held for up to two years without charge, or prospect of trial."

...but 660 other men remain trapped in a legal quagmire. These are just ten of them

Abdulaziz Sayer Owain Al- Shammari

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: 10 January 2002

Location of Capture: Kohat, Pakistan

Abdulaziz is a 30-year- old teacher and a father of two,who went to Pakistan in October 2001

Abdullah Kamal Al Kandari

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: 10 January 2002

Location of Capture: Kohat, Pakistan

Went to Afghani Pakistani border in 2001 to help refugee relief. Family says he was sold to Pakistan by local villagers

Ahcene Zemiri

Nationality: Algerian

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: 2001

Location of Capture: Afghan-Pakistan border

He was born in Algiers in 1967. He is married with one son, Abdul Karim, who was born in June 2002. He has never met his son.

David Hicks

Nationality: Australian

Marital Status: Single

Date of Capture: January 2001

Location of Capture: Tora Bora, Afghanistan

Officers seized his belongings from his family's house in late 2001. His family had last heard from him two months earlier

Fouad Mahmoud Al Rabiah

Nationality: Kuwait

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: 4 January 2002

Location of Capture: Kandahar, Afghanistan

Fouad, 44, is an aviation engineer for Kuwaiti Airlines. He worked on a rescue campaign in Kosovo in 1988

Mamdouh Habib

Nationality: Australian

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: not known

Location of Capture: Pakistan

Sydney terror suspect Mamdouh Habib is expected to face a US military court when US authorities try the next group of prisoners

Khalid Abdullah Mishal Al Mutairi

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Single

Date of Capture: 10 January 2002

Location of Capture: Kohat, Pakistan

In 2001, the 28-year-old travelled to Pakistan to visit the mosque his family had funded to see if it needed any repairs

Fawzi Khaled Abdullah Fahad Al Odah

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Single

Date of Capture: 10 January 2002

Location of Capture:

Kohat, Pakistan

Theteacher taught in poor countries in the summer. He told his family he decided to stay to help refugees

Omar Rajab Mohammad Rajab Amin

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Married

Date of Capture: 10 January 2002

Location of Capture: Kohat, Pakistan

Omar was an agricultural supervisor for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour

Saad Madai Saad Al-Azmi

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Marital Status: Single

Date of Capture: 19 January 2002

Location of Capture: Karachi, Pakistan

Traveled to Kabul, n July 2001 to supervise charitable projects. Detained in Pakistan and taken by to Guantanamo

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