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British resident cleared to leave Guantanamo
By Jane Sutton
August 9, 2007

MIAMI (Reuters) - One of the five British residents London wants freed from the Guantanamo prison camp has already been cleared for release but will not be sent to his native land because of fears he would be abused there, a Pentagon official said on Thursday.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband sent a formal request to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday for the release of five Guantanamo captives who had legally resided in Britain before their detention but are not British citizens.

Sandy Hodgkinson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said a military panel that functions as Guantanamo's parole board had already cleared one of the five for transfer to his homeland.

She did not identify him or his native country but said the United States could not send him home because it lacked credible assurances from his government that he would not be mistreated.

The detainees in question are Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national; Jamil el-Banna, who is Jordanian; Omar Deghayes, a Libyan; Binyam Mohamed from Ethiopia; and Abdennour Sameur, an Algerian.

Mohamed, the Ethiopian, is unlikely to have been the one cleared since the United States wants to try him in its war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo. The United States accused him of being part of an al Qaeda bomb-making group and plotting to set off radioactive bombs.

He was charged with conspiracy in the first Guantanamo tribunals but the charge was dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that court system as illegal last year. Military prosecutors have said they still want to file new charges against Mohamed in the revised tribunal system, which is stalled amid legal appeals.

Hodgkinson said the four British residents who had not been cleared for transfer are "still considered to be of a significant threat."

She said U.S. officials would give the British government detailed dossiers of the five captives' activities, including al Qaeda training and links, but would not insist on imprisonment in Britain as a condition for transfer.

"We don't ask other countries to detain people on our behalf. However if the British government did have information that they've (the detainees) engaged in criminal activities and wanted to prosecute, that would be a decision for the British government to take," Hodgkinson said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was in talks with Britain concerning the five but that any transfer from Guantanamo required careful discussion.

"Those have to be more detailed in cases where you might have countries in which questions about how individuals might be treated are raised. That is certainly not the case with the UK," McCormack said.

"We are going to be talking to the Brits about it. It will be a two-way conversation," he said.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming in Washington)

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