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Author Topic: Gates Orders Gitmo Closure Plan  (Read 827 times)
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« on: Dec 19, 2008 02:06 AM »

Gates Orders Gitmo Closure Plan & News Agencies
Gates wanted to be ready in case Obama decides to take action on Guantanamo soon after assuming office next month. (Reuters)

Gates wanted to be ready in case Obama decides to take action on Guantanamo soon after assuming office next month. (Reuters)
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered aides to draw up plans to close down the notorious Guantanamo detention center, a declared priority for President-elect Barack Obama.

"He has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down, what will be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility, and at the same time protect the American people from dangerous terrorists," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

    * Guantanamo Bay in Focus (Special Page) (Vote)

Gates wanted to be ready in case Obama decides to take action on Guantanamo soon after assuming office next month.

"The request has been made, his team is working on it so he can be prepared to assist the president-elect should he wish to address this very early in his tenure," said Morrell.

During his presidential campaign, Obama pledged to shut down Guantanamo to help restore America's moral stature.

"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that," Obama said in his first post-election interview.

The notorious detention center, opened in early 2002, currently holds nearly 250 terror suspects captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere as part of America's so-called war on terror.

They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged operational mastermind of 9/11, as well other alleged senior Al-Qaeda leaders.

Critics say hundreds of detainees, designated enemy combatants by Washington to strip them from any rights under American laws, have been held for years on flimsy legal pretexts.

Only 22 have been charged: one pleaded guilty, two were convicted at trial and 19 cases are still pending.

Guantanamo has been widely condemned around the world as a stain on America's human rights record.

Never Questioned

 "I've spent many years in the worst place on earth for doing nothing," Idir, released this week, told Reuters.
Mustafa Ait Idir, an Algerian computer science engineer who spent seven years in Guantanamo, said US interrogators never questioned him on the main terrorism allegation against him.

"They've never asked anything about charges which were brought against us," he told Reuters in an interview.

Idir was one of six men arrested in Bosnia in October 2001 and sent three months later to Guantanamo -- despite having being freed by a Bosnian court for lack of evidence.

US President George W. Bush said in 2002 that the group had been plotting a bomb attack on the US embassy in Sarajevo.

But a Justice Department attorney later dropped those accusations and said instead that the men had planned to go to Afghanistan to fight against US forces.

"They've never asked about Afghanistan," said Idir, 38.

"They only questioned me about Islamic organizations working in Bosnia."

Looking frail after his years in detention, Idir said he had been denied medication he needed in prison, showing a broken finger.

He said he was kept for four months, lightly dressed, in a very cold refrigerated container.

For short periods of the day he was taken outside, where it was very hot. Other prisoners were subjected to long periods in total darkness or very bright light, he said.

"There was torture every minute," Idir said. "It did not matter to them if we were terrorists or not."

A devout believer, he said the gravest offence for Muslim detainees was when soldiers threw around copies of the Quran, swore at Allah or abused them during prayers.

"I've spent many years in the worst place on earth for doing nothing."
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