Berlin given US request on Guantanamo inmates
10 hours ago
BERLIN (AFP) — Germany's interior ministry said Sunday it has received a plea from Washington for it to take in Guantanamo inmates, which reports identify as Chinese ethnic Uighurs seen as "terrorists" in Beijing.
"I can confirm that a specific request by the United States of America regarding the acceptance of Guantanamo prisoners has been delivered, with names and information," the spokesman told AFP.
"Its review (at the interior ministry) will likely start early next week, possibly from Monday."
News weekly Der Spiegel reports in its Monday edition that Washington handed Berlin a list of "nearly 10" prisoners. The spokesman declined to confirm that figure.
Bild daily said the request concerned 10 Chinese ethnic Uighurs, who are viewed by Beijing as "Chinese terrorists".
Munich, capital of Germany southern Bavaria state, is home to about 500 Uighurs, the world's largest known Uighur community in exile.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said on a visit to Berlin this week that Washington was looking at a list of about 30 detainees from the anti-terror lockup in Cuba whom they would like to see accepted by allied countries.
They include prisoners who could not be returned to their countries of origin because they faced likely persecution there.
The interior ministry spokesman said it would make its decisions on a case-by-case basis in consultation with other European Union countries as well as officials from Germany's 16 federal states.
The criteria were set out in foreign residency law and included whether the applicant posed a security threat and whether he had any ties to Germany, he added. US authorities say the detainees are not dangerous.
The spokesman also underscored that Germany was under no obligation to take in the detainees.
"The United States bears the primary responsibility here," he said.
Bavaria's state interior minister Joachim Herrmann was quoted by Bild as saying: "We are certainly not going to offer our candidacy to welcome these people."
Germany's fractious left-right government is at odds over the issue.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat running for chancellor this year, said in an open letter to Obama in January that Germany would be willing to take in detainees if it helped him close Guantanamo.
But the conservative Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Obama could not expect Germany to accept freed inmates.
According to Bild, Schaeuble wants first to exhaust all possibilities of their being resettled within the United States.
Most of the 17 Uighurs held at Guantanamo were cleared more than four years ago of being "enemy combatants".
The US Defense Department and the State Department have tried unsuccessfully for several years to arrange the transfer of the Uighurs to a third country, saying they face the risk of persecution if they return to China.
The Obama administration has said it "cannot imagine" sending the inmates back to China.
In October, a federal judge ordered the men released into the United States, but that ruling was overturned on appeal, leaving the men in legal limbo.
Lawyers for the Uighurs have appealed to the US Supreme Court, which has not yet weighed in on their case.
In a speech in Berlin, Holder urged European countries to make "sacrifices" to realise the transatlantic goal of closing the jail, in which prisoners have often been held for years without charge or trial, by January.
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