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British Official: 5 British Prisoners at Guantanamo to be Freed - 2004-03-09


A top British official says five British prisoners held among terrorist suspects at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be released Tuesday.

Speaking late Monday in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, British Home Secretary David Blunkett said the five would be flown home, where they will be questioned by counter-terrorism officers.

That information will be evaluated before British prosecutors decide the next step. The suspects could face trial in Britain, or set free.

British officials announced last month that five of the nine British nationals held at Guantanamo would be sent home, but did not say exactly when.

Mr. Blunkett said the other four prisoners should face trial in the United States, saying the evidence against them would be best used by U.S. authorities.

Those prisoners face charges of being or assisting enemy combatants in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led operation to oust the Taleban government and hunt down al-Qaida terrorists.

Mr. Blunkett said Britain has been urging U.S. officials to allow the remaining British detainees to retain legal representation and the right of appeal.

About 650 suspects are being held at the Guantanamo Naval Base.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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