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US judge orders release of five Algerians from Guantanamo


Washington, (AKI): Five out of six Algerians held for almost seven years at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must be freed, a US judge has ruled. District Judge Richard Leon said the US Government had failed to prove the prisoners had planned to go to Afghanistan to fight US troops.

Leon ordered the US government to take all necessary and diplomatic steps to facilitate the release of the five "forthwith," Reuters news agency reported.

The six Algerians were arrested in Bosnia shortly after Al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks against the US in 2001. They were sent to Guantanamo in 2002 and have been held there without charge ever since. Many have complained of abuse.

After their detention in 2002, US President George W. Bush said the Algerians had been plotting a bomb attack against the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Judge Leon ruled that the US government had "failed to show by burden of proof" that the men were heading to Afghanistan to join Taliban fighters, as it had claimed.

But US authorities could continue to detain a sixth man, Belkacem Bensayah, in the detention centre in Cuba, he ruled.

The Algerians are the first group of inmates to challenge in civilian courts their continuing detention since a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in June gave Guantanamo prisoners the legal right to do so.

There are about 255 detainees at Guantanamo, including four juveniles. The prison camp was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after the 9/11 attacks.

Most Guantanamo inmates have been held for years without charge. Many have complained of abuse and there have been several suicides at the camp. Human rights organisations and European MPs have urged the prison's closure.

US president-elect Barack Obama has said he intends to shut down Guantanamo.

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