East Turkestan: No Request Made to Italy
Italy has not been asked to accept prisoners held in the United States military base at Guantanamo, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday [16 December 2008] as Washington announced it was ready to release three detainees.
Speaking here on the sidelines of a meeting of Euromed ministers, Frattini said Italy had received no such requests following a proposal by Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado last week that European Union members agree to resettle some detainees.
Stephen Oleskey, one of the lawyers for three Bosnians to be released said he had been told by sources in Guantanamo and Bosnia that the transfer would take place soon.
A court ordered last month that the three - originally from Algeria - should be transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they had obtained citizenship by the time they were detained in 2001.
It would be the first instance that the administration of President George Bush releases Guantanamo detainees because of a court order.
The Pentagon has released or transferred abroad some 500 detainees since Guantanamo opened almost seven years ago but always on the basis of a military court order.
US President-elect Barack Obama has said he will shut down the camp after he takes office in January .
The camp was set up in January 2002 to house suspected terrorists following the September 11 attacks in the US by al Qaeda.
It currently holds some 250 detainees, many of whom have been held for years without being charged.
The US has so far cleared 50 to 60 detainees for release, but says they cannot be repatriated because of risk of mistreatment.
Portugal has already offered asylum to those who fear returning to their countries.
In a letter sent to EU members last Thursday [11 December 2008] Amado said the 27-nation bloc ''should send a clear signal of our willingness to help the US government resolve this problem, namely by taking in the detainees''.
Frattini said ''no one has made a request, whether this concerns granting political asylum to some Guantanamo detainees or holding others in Italian jails''.
Opposition MP Marco Perduca urged Italy to ''come forward on its own'' and provide hospitality for detainees who ''run serious risks if repatriated''.
The US has cleared several members of China's ethnic minority Uighurs but it has been unable to repatriate them because of human rights concerns.
China accuses Uighur dissidents of seeking an independent homeland in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Perduca said other detainees at risk if repatriated included Tunisians, Algerians, Libyans, Yemenites, Iraqis, Afghans and Saudi Arabians.
In June opposition politicians formally asked the centre-right government to explain the alleged role played by the Italian secret service in the 2002-2003 abduction and interrogation of six Tunisians detained in Guantanamo prison.
A Council of Europe (COE) probe last year  concluded that 100 people had been kidnapped by the CIA in Europe and rendered to a country where they might be tortured between 2001 and 2005.
The CIA has admitted rendition but said the COE's report was ''biased and distorted'' and stressed that the agency had operated lawfully.