Swiss government says it will accept 1 Guantanamo detainee to help Obama close the prison

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Swiss say they will accept 1 Guantanamo detainee

BERN, Switzerland — Switzerland will take in one detainee from the U.S. detention facility for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the hope of helping President Barack Obama to close down the prison, the government said Wednesday.

The detainee is a citizen of Uzbekistan and has been held for seven years at the U.S. military prison, the government said.

He was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 for alleged links to terrorism, said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. The authorities refused to release the man’s name.

The Swiss said they interviewed the detainee in August and concluded that he had no links to a terrorist group, and received American assurances that he posed no public risk.

The detainee has been cleared for release since 2005, but couldn’t be returned to his native Uzbekistan where he would face possible persecution.

He has promised to respect Swiss law, learn the French language and find a job, a statement said.

The transfer still needs to be approved by the U.S. Congress, said Justice Ministry spokeswoman Brigitte Hauser-Sueess.

If handed over, the man will be resettled in Geneva, the government said.

By taking the detainee, Switzerland wants to “play its part in solving the Guantanamo problem,” the government said.

Obama ordered the Guantanamo facility closed by January 2010, but said last month he would miss the deadline. There are over 200 detainees at the prison.

Obama has ordered the U.S. federal government to acquire an underused state prison in rural Illinois to be the new home for a limited number of terror suspects now held at Guantanamo.

Other European nations including France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Portugal have also agreed to accept detainees in recent months.

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