Canberra formally rejects Guantanamo inmates

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Australia's formal rejection of the latest US-request made in December to take in detainees from the Guantanamo military prison camp based in Cuba.


REUTERS - Australia has rejected all U.S. requests so far to resettle detainees from Guantanamo Bay, the most recent being on Friday night, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Saturday.

A request to resettle a group of prisoners from the military prison camp in Cuba was made last month by the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush, Gillard told reporters in Melbourne.

It was the second such request and was rejected on Friday night Australian time, Gillard said.

"Those resettlement requests have been considered on a case-by-case basis, against our stringent national security and immigration criteria," said Gillard, who temporarily heads the government while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on leave.

"Assessing those requests from a case-by-case basis, they had not met our stringent national security and immigration criteria and have been rejected."

About 255 men are still held at Guantanamo, including 60 the United States has cleared for release but cannot repatriate for fear they will be tortured or persecuted in their home countries.

The prison has come to symbolise aggressive interrogation practices that opened the United States up to allegations of torture.

The U.S. State Department last week asked around 100 countries for help clearing the camp of detainees over a two-year period, the Australian newspaper reported.

Australia's opposition on Friday strongly criticised the government for considering any requests to accept Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The suggestion that Australia might take any of the Guantanamo Bay detainees has been greeted with horror by many Australians.

Under conservative former Prime Minister John Howard, Canberra was one of the strongest supporters of Bush's war on terrorism.

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