*26 Guantanamo prisoners released, no Australians*

Twenty-six men have been transferred from a US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to their home countries for release, the Pentagon said Monday.

The 26 included 23 Afghans and three Pakistanis, it said in a statement.

"They no longer were deemed a threat and they no longer had intelligence value," said Major Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon would provide no other information on the detainees or the transfer, citing operational and security reasons.

Two Australians, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, are being detained by the US at Guantanamo.

They were the latest in a series of detainees who have been either released or turned over to authorities of their home countries for further detention.

More than 600 prisoners are being held as "enemy combatants" at Camp Delta, a maximum security prison at a US naval base at Guantanamo.

President George W Bush has designated six detainees, including one Australian, as eligible for trial by military commissions, but so far charges have been brought against only two prisoners.

It came less than a week after five Britons were turned over to British authorities, flown to London and quickly released without charges.

By the Pentagon's tally, 119 detainees have been released so far.

Twelve others - four from Saudi Arabia, one from Spain and seven from Russia - were repatriated for continued detention in their home countries.

The released Britons have charged in newspaper interviews and through lawyers that they were beaten and mistreated during their two years in US military custody.

The Pentagon on Monday dismissed those allegations as "lies" and said they would not be investigated because they lacked credibility.

"These allegations are fabrications. These are lies," said Major Shavers.

"All the detainees were treated humanely and to the extent appropriate consistent with military necessity in accordance with the third Geneva Convention of 1949," he said.

"Because these are lies and fabrications, they are not credible. If they were credible allegations of illegal conduct, then we would investigate," he said.

Asked how the Pentagon could determine whether the allegations were lies without an investigation, the spokesman told AFP, "We do not do what they are alleging."

Human rights groups and some governments have criticized the indefinite detentions, saying the prisoners are in a legal limbo with charges or access to  lawyers.

The Pentagon, which defends the detentions as in keeping with the laws of armed conflict, unveiled plans earlier this month to establish military boards that will review the status of prisoners on an annual basis.

-- AFP

Top | Home

©-free 2003 Adelaide Institute