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US Ponders Fate of Guantanamo Prisoner Born in US - 2002-04-04


U.S. officials are pondering the fate of a 22-year-old man captured in Afghanistan who was apparently born in the United States and may be an American citizen.

The detainee now being held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base is 22-year-old Yasser Esam Hamdi. He was apparently born in the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, where his Saudi parents were working. He returned with them to Saudi Arabia when he was still a small child.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says documents appear to back up his story. "We think he will have American citizenship," she said. "They are still working this through. As I said, the Department of Justice has a birth certificate that indicates he was born in Baton Rouge."

If he is determined to be a U.S. citizen, he could be removed from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility where about 300 al-Qaida and Taleban fighters are being held.

Ms. Clarke says he would not be subject to trial by the special military commissions ordered by President Bush for prosecuting terrorist suspects who are not American. "American citizen, he would not be considered a candidate for the military commissions," she said.

Mr. Hamdi was detained after a prison uprising late last year near the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

That is same uprising that led to the detention of the so-called American Taleban, John Walker Lindh. He is being held in the United States, awaiting trial in federal court on charges that include conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens and support for terrorism.