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January 16, 2012

French Judge Seeks Access to Guantanamo Prison

A French judge has requested permission from the United States to visit the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to investigate claims by former French inmates that they were tortured.

Judge Sophie Clement said Tuesday she wants access to all documents relating to the arrest and transfer of three Frenchmen who were held there.

The three men, Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali and Khaled Ben Mustapha, were arrested in late 2001 on the Afghan-Pakistani border and transferred to Guantanamo. They were sent back to France in 2004 and 2005 and later released.

The men told the judge during questioning in France that they were subjected to violence, including torture and sexual abuse, during their detention.

The U.S. detention center at Guantanamo became a prison for suspects in the war on terror in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Supporters say the facility is vital to the war effort, while critics say allegations of harsh interrogation procedures have severely damaged America’s reputation.

Days after his January 2009 inauguration, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order to close Guantanamo within one year. But the detention center remained open after Congress blocked the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S. for trial in civilian courts.

Many lawmakers want foreign terrorism suspects tried before military commissions, where they would not have the rights given to defendants in civilian courts.

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