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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Algeria officials visit Guantanamo Bay detainees
Devin Montgomery at 4:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz on Sunday confirmed that officials from the country had visited the US base at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] to identify Algerian detainees, and said that although the country would accept repatriation of the 17 still held there, some may face criminal charges upon their return. US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch [official profile] has told reporters that the US and Algeria are negotiating an accord in order to return the detainees, but that the US wants to make sure that those that are dangerous are not simply set free.

Two main obstacles face the return of the Algerian detainees to their country of origin. Some detainees, most notably Ahmed Belbacha [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], have challenged their transfer, saying they fear being tortured or killed by either the government or al Qaeda if they return. In addition, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's 2006 amnesty plan [BBC backgrounder] for Islamic insurgents could mean that dangerous detainees may be released and able to reestablish their terrorist ties. US President George Bush has said that, when possible, he wants to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay in order to eventually close the facility [JURIST report]. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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