Germany to take 2 from Gitmo; legal status unclear
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Germany has agreed to take two inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but their legal status has yet to be determined, officials say.
Asked repeatedly by the U.S. to take in some of the inmates, the German government said last week two of its states have agreed to accept one person each. No more would be taken, said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
The transfers could take weeks, if not months, according to Frank Rechreiter, a spokesperson for Hamburg, one of the states.
The detainees, who de Maiziere said were thoroughly screened, would not be confined in any facility, officials said.
But they said task forces have been formed to try to figure out some basic issues.
“One big question which still has to be answered is what legal status the two will be granted,” said David Freichel, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior for Rhineland-Palatinate, the other state taking an inmate.
The state is home to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and has one of the biggest U.S. military communities outside of the States.
Freichel said the inmates’ legal status will affect the way they live in Germany. Still unclear is whether the inmates would receive benefits or psychological counseling, he said. He noted that the men “might very likely” not be in good shape mentally.
Rechreiter said the main task will be to integrate the prisoners in society.
U.S. European Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Taylor Clark said that since details of the inmates’ release are still being worked out through German and American diplomatic channels, it’s too early to say whether it will have any impact on base security.
Germany’s decision to accept the detainees followed a lively public debate on whether the country should take Guantanamo inmates at all, with some worried they could pose a security risk.
Germany has taken in one other inmate, Murat Kurnaz, who was born and raised in the country and released from Guantanamo in 2006.
The U.S. government asked Germany, which had long criticized the Guantanamo camp over human rights issues, to take in a group of Uighur detainees, but the government balked, citing security concerns.
Last year, the U.S. asked Germany to take in three other inmates. Two of them are the ones that will settle in Germany.
Since 2002, about 600 detainees have been released from Guantanamo Bay, mostly to countries in Europe and the Middle East. A total of 180 people remain at the facility.
Stars and Stripes reporter John Vandiver contributed to this report.