ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Maryland (AP) – Three of five British residents held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay will soon be released under a repatriation agreement with the British government, an attorney for one of the detainees said.
Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, Libyan-born Omar Deghayes and Algerian Abdennour Sameur will be returned to Britain.
“These men have received nothing in the way of justice, nothing at all,” said Zachary Katznelson, an attorney with British human rights group “Reprieve,” which represents British residents at Guantanamo. “It’s about time they were returned to their families, and we’re grateful to the British government for making this happen.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown had made a request in July for the release of the men, who all previously lived in Britain.
A fourth British resident, Ethiopian national Binyam Mohamed, will remain at the prison camp, said Katznelson, who spoke to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where he arrived with a group of journalists, lawyers and military officials after attending pretrial hearings for a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported Friday that the fifth British resident held at Guantanamo, Saudi Shaker Aamer, will be sent to Saudi Arabia. But Katznelson said he could not confirm that.
All five men had been granted refugee status, indefinite leave or exceptional leave to remain in Britain before they were detained, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.
The U.S. government could not confirm the repatriations. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, acknowledged that the U.S. has been in talks with other countries to repatriate Guantanamo detainees and is seeking to reduce the population held there.
El-Banna was arrested by Gambian authorities in November 2002 and transferred to U.S. detention, according to Amnesty International. It said Deghayes and Aamer were captured in Pakistan in 2002.
The group Reprieve claims Mohamed was held in Morocco for 18 months after being captured in April 2002 in Pakistan and he was later sent to Guantanamo. Amnesty International said the circumstances of Sameur’s detention were not immediately clear.
Brown request in July for the men to be released was a change in policy welcomed by the Bush administration. Under his predecessor Tony Blair, the British government would not accept the detainees because they are not citizens.
Since 2002, the U.S. has transferred about 400 detainees from Guantanamo to more than two dozen countries.
Five British citizens were freed in March 2004 and four in January 2005, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.