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British Official: US Prison at Guantanamo Bay an 'Affront to Democracy'


A senior British Cabinet member has sharply criticized the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, calling it a "shocking affront" to the principles of democracy.

British Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer, the de-facto justice minister, says Washington is deliberately using the camp to put suspected terrorists beyond the reach of the law.

Falconer made the comments Wednesday in Australia in a speech at the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in Sydney.

Falconer says the British government had previously kept its concerns about Guantanamo Bay private, because it wanted to persuade Washington to release nine Britons detained at the camp. But, he says the time has come to raise the issue publicly, because all the British inmates have returned home.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been more muted in his comments on Guantanamo, calling it simply an "anomaly".

Falconer first condemned the detention center in June of this year as "intolerable and wrong". The facility currently holds about 450 inmates, including 14 top al-Qaida figures who were recently transferred there from CIA custody.

Only a handful of detainees at Guantanamo have been charged with crimes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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