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Agence France Presse

US Eyes Plan to Empty Guantanamo Prison: Report

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WASHINGTON - The US government is developing a "long-range plan" to empty its war-on-terror prison at its naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and seeking help on what to do with inmates who won't be tried, The Washington Post reported Friday.

President George W. Bush's administration may ask Congress to "spell out procedures for scores of suspected terrorists whom the government does not plan to bring to trial," the report said, citing unnamed administration officials and others familiar with high-level White House talks on the thorny issue.

Last month the US Supreme Court ruled that inmates could challenge their detention in a civilian court. The US government had said it wanted to bring 60 to 80 Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, though only about 20 have so far been charged.

The commissions are highly controversial, notably because they accept indirect witness statements as evidence, as well as information obtained under duress.

One scenario under consideration would see "about 80 detainees ... remain at the facility in Cuba to be tried by military commissions, and about 65 others would be turned over to their native countries."

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But "the focus of the intensifying debate is what to do with about 120 remaining prisoners, who are viewed by the administration as too dangerous to release but who are unlikely to be brought before military commissions because of a lack of evidence.

"Officials are considering whether to propose legislation in coming days that would establish legal procedures for such prisoners, who could be transferred to military or civilian prisons on the US mainland," the report quoted unnamed sources as saying.

Bush has said for more than two years that he would like to close the widely condemned prison camp at the Caribbean naval base, which itself lies on the coast of Cuba against the will of the communist government in Havana.

US authorities were cited in the report as saying no decision has been made on a potential close of the prison camp and that "the administration's debate is focused on what steps would be necessary for such a closure, including moving scores of terrorism suspects to other US detention facilities."

© 2008 Agence France Presse

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