August 22, 2005

U.S. releases 3 Guantanamo prisoners, 505 remain

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Monday it has
released three Guantanamo prisoners to Iran, Yemen and
Tajikistan, leaving about 505 jailed at the U.S. military
prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman, said the
two men sent to their home countries of Yemen and Tajikistan
were found to no longer be "enemy combatants" by a panel known
as the Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

The detainee sent home to Iran was recommended separately
for release by an annual administrative review board, Plexico

The Pentagon declined to identify the three men.

The United States opened the prison at the U.S. Navy Base
in Guantanamo Bay on the southeast tip of Cuba in January 2002
and has faced steady criticism from human rights groups because
of the detentions.

A total of 245 detainees now have been transferred out of
the jail to other countries, either to be freed or for
continued detention.

Most of the 505 terrorism suspects remaining at the prison
were captured in Afghanistan and most have been held for more
than three years. Only four have been charged, including
Australian David Hicks.

Human rights groups have criticized the United States for
the indefinite detentions and former Guantanamo prisoners have
said they were tortured.

The United States has designated all of the prisoners at
Guantanamo "enemy combatants" and denied them rights accorded
prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

The prisoner returned to Iran was the fourth sent back to
his home country under an administrative process in which
special boards review the status of each prisoner annually.

The men sent to Yemen and Tajikistan were among 38 who have
been cleared for release by Combatant Status Review Tribunal
hearings, set up to hear the case of each detainee to determine
whether or not they should continue to be designated enemy

Twenty-nine of those men now have been sent home and nine
are awaiting transfer.

The trials of the first four defendants began in Guantanamo
last August but were halted in November by a U.S. federal
judge's ruling that they violated military law and U.S.
obligations to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

A federal appeals court recently reversed that lower court
order and the Pentagon is preparing the resume the trials.