New Guantanamo Prison Opens; Detainee Release Slow

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The U.S. is opening a multi-winged $31 million complex of gray concrete and steel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that is designed to hold 100 captives for years to come, the Washington Post reports. The original detention camp there was a collection of chain-link cages used two years ago to hold suspected terrorists and Taliban fighters. The new building, known as Camp 5, signals permanence. The Post, in a three-month investigation of Guantanamo, says that it is easy for detainees to get in, but vexingly difficult to get out.

About 600 detainees are housed at the base, half of whom the Pentagon would send back if it could obtain proper security guarantees from foreign governments. One hundred forty-seven detainees have been returned to their home countries. Six have been designated to stand trial before military tribunals. Many detainees have been in custody for two years. Only a handful have seen a lawyer, and two have been formally charged. The open-ended detentions have been condemned by foreign governments and human rights groups and are now being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. officials say making releases as quickly as possible. “We freely admit we’re learning this as we go along,” said Paul W. Butler, an assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “There were no blueprints for this.”

With news accounts and information from lawyers and Web sites, the Post compiled the largest public list of detainees, including 370 of the 745 or so men detained since January 2002. Most identified detainees come from countries where al Qaeda has its deepest roots: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen. The largest contingent comes from the place that supplied most of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers: Saudi Arabia.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58702-2004May1.html

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