Accessibility links

US Defends Continued Detention of 4 British Citizens at Guantanamo - 2004-03-08

In an exclusive interview in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, senior U.S. officials say the four British citizens who will not be released this week from Guantanamo Bay are far too dangerous to be set free.

Five of the British detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay are expected to be returned home this week, but the focus of attention in Britain remains on the four men who will remain.

In an unprecedented disclosure, senior U.S. officials have told the Daily Telegraph details of the cases against the four detainees. One official said they are all trained al-Qaida terrorists and they would return to terrorist activities if they are released. The unnamed U.S. official tells the newspaper's Washington correspondent, David Rennie, that the men, ranging in age from 23 to 36, would pose a serious threat to both the United States and Britain.

This is the first time U.S. authorities have released details about the allegations against any of the 650 or so detainees held at the high security installation.

The officials claim the men were all trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan where they were said to have acquired skills in bomb-making, assassination strategies and urban warfare. One of them, it is claimed, met al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden three times.

A U.S. official is quoted as saying that over the past two years, the United States has ceded the public relations ground to those who would say that the detainees are entirely innocent. The official says these disclosures are designed to explain particularly to people in Britain why the four men will not be released.

The official tells the Daily Telegraph that we are doing the British people a favor by continuing to hold the men. The official says it is the right thing to do.

The exclusive report comes as British Home Secretary David Blunkett has flown to Washington to finalize arrangements for the five men who will be returning, and to ask for fair treatment for the remaining four.

The home secretary says he will be seeking a fair deal for those who remain in custody at Guantanamo. That, he adds, means they should be treated in accordance with international judicial standards including a fair and open trial, the right to legal representation and the right to appeal.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says it has grave concerns about the conditions in which the men are being held, and the methods that are being used to extract information from them. A spokesman for the group says those being held must be charged with what they call recognizable offenses, and tried in a court.