Paul Garwood / Associated Press – 2006-04-21 09:12:37
( Apr 20, 2006) — A chorus of complaints against the Bush administration erupted Thursday after the Pentagon released a previously secret list of the names and nationalities of 558 people held at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
Britain said its citizen should be freed after being held for years without charges. Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation commission vowed to send a delegation to the prison to make sure Afghans are not being mistreated. China demanded custody of a group of Muslim separatists so it can prosecute them on terrorism charges.
The list, released Wednesday under orders of a federal judge in a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by The Associated Press, may provide the first proof of life to families whose relatives have disappeared, said Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
About 490 detainees from about 40 countries are now at the base. The Red Cross ˜ the only outside agency the United States has allowed to visit the detainees ˜ previously had access to the list but was not allowed to make it public.
The information stirred anger in many countries. In Pakistan, a senior official said it shows Washington concealed information about its citizens. Egyptian and Jordanian security officials said none of their citizen detainees had criminal records or known terrorist connections. Activists in Mauritania and Bahrain demanded freedom for their citizens, who are approaching their fifth year without trial.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan, who was held from 2002 to late 2005 in Guantanamo Bay, said the world deserved a better idea of who remained behind bars and whether they committed any crimes.
“I think it is good that everybody knows about the situation in Guantanamo Bay, but still nobody knows what the future is for these people who are still in jail,” the white-turbaned Abdul Salam Zaeef said in his heavily protected Kabul home.
“I don’t want these people to be released without having a fair trial, because only then will the world see that America doesn’t have any evidence to justify holding them for four years.”
Bahrain’s Human Rights Society said it petitioned the U.S. Embassy for the release of three remaining Bahraini detainees and for guarantees that their treatment does not violate international law.
One of them, 32-year-old Juma Mohammed Al Dossary, has attempted suicide 10 times, gone on a hunger strike and been force-fed, U.S. officials have said. Three other Bahrainis on the list, including a member of the royal family, were released in November.
The Pentagon list is incomplete: It identifies only Guantanamo detainees who had “enemy combatant” hearings. More than 750 people have passed through the high-security detention center, located on a U.S. Navy base at the southeastern edge of Cuba, since it opened in January 2002.
The Pentagon has not revealed the status of the vast majority of detainees, a secrecy apparently extended even to U.S. allies in the war on terror. A Pakistani Interior Ministry official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, reacted angrily to the list, saying there were more Pakistani nationals in the prison than Washington had previously disclosed.
The official, who is familiar with his country’s efforts to win freedom for detainees, said Pakistan had thought seven of its citizens were at Guantanamo when actually there are 22.
“It is a fact that they have been concealing information from us about our people detained at Guantanamo Bay,” he told AP.
Beijing claims the 22 Chinese nationals on the list include violent Uighur separatists fighting for an independent state called “East Turkestan. U.S. officials have sent a number of Guantanamo detainees to their home countries to be prosecuted ˜ including six Frenchmen now awaiting trial on terrorism charges ˜ but has said the Uighurs cannot be returned to China because they likely will be tortured or killed.
The appearance of the Pentagon list, which coincided with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s trip to meet with President Bush, brought the diplomatic dispute into the public eye.
“We hope the American side would repatriate the terrorists,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing. “East Turkestan is a part of the international terrorist force and casts a serious threat to international societies including China and the U.S.”
Even Britain, America’s strongest ally in the war on terrorism, said Thursday it has requested the release of a longtime British resident on the list, saying Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote recently to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking that Bisher al-Rawi be returned to Britain.
Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Puerto Rico, Alexander G. Higgins in Switzerland, Munir Ahmad in Pakistan, Ahmed Mohammed in Mauritania, Reem Khalifa in Bahrain and Amir Shah in Afghanistan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press