Wed, Jan 12, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Plans drawn up for return of UK terrorist suspects


British anti-terrorism police are drawing up plans for the return to the UK of the remaining four Britons held as terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay.

Four Muslim men have spent up to three years imprisoned in tiny cages without charge or trial. They are expected to be released within days of their arrival back on British soil.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the US taking prisoners to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; they were branded as enemy combatants and accused of links to al-Qaeda. The detentions without any rights and persistent allegations of torture have caused anger around the world and tarnished the US' reputation.

British police have been put on standby to expect the return of the four Britons soon. A police source said the announcement of the return was expected "in weeks rather than months."

Last March five Britons were transferred by the US from Guantanamo Bay to the UK. After several days of questioning by anti-terrorism officers they were all freed without charge.

The source said the same was expected to happen this time, though there remained the slim possibility that during interviews admissions could be made that could lead to charges.

The four Britons include Feroz Abbasi, from Croydon, south London, and Moazzam Begg, from Birmingham. In July 2003 US President George W. Bush designated these two Britons to face military commissions, but the plan was abandoned after an outcry led to the British government condemning the US plans.

The other two detainees are Martin Mubanga, who was arrested in Zambia, and Richard Belmar from London.

Pentagon spokesman Major Michael Shavers declined to comment on any reports of an imminent release, but said: "We're regularly in negotiations with other governments, including the UK, about transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay. As in the past, if a transfer is made, we'll announce it once it is complete."

In October the Guardian revealed that the Pentagon offered to send the remaining Britons back home, to serve their sentences in the UK. It was an offer Britain rejected.

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