updated 12/16/2008 5:41:00 PM ET 2008-12-16T22:41:00

Three Guantanamo prisoners were flown to Bosnia on Tuesday and released to their families in the first detainee transfer ordered by a U.S. federal judge, an attorney for the men said.

A judge in Washington ordered the release of the Algerian-born men last month, saying the U.S. government's case was not strong enough to continue holding them. The order came in the first hearing on the Bush administration's evidence for keeping prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba as "enemy combatants."

An unscheduled Tuesday night flight to the Sarajevo airport delivered a group of men to police who rushed them out of the building, put them in armored vehicles and took them to state police headquarters.

"This is a great victory. A great day for me and my family," said Nadja Dizdarevic, the wife of detainee Boudella al Hajj.

Al Hajj and fellow detainees Mustafa Ait Idr and Mohammed Nechle were taken into custody as a formality, said one of their attorneys, Stephen Oleskey.

"It has a very happy ending," he said. "We are absolutely thrilled."

Two hours after the plane landed, a uniformed officer standing outside police headquarters told media that the men were allowed to go home after going through an identification process. The officer did not provide his name.

Six Algerians were detained in Bosnia in 2001 on suspicion of plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and held at Guantanamo since January 2002.

'A vindication'
In his order last month, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the government's evidence linking five of them to al-Qaida was not credible as it came from a single, unidentified source.

Leon said there was enough reason to believe the sixth, Belkacem Bensayah, was close to an al-Qaida operative and had sought to help others travel to Afghanistan to fight the United States and its allies.

Rob Kirsch, an attorney for the men, called the release "a vindication for our legal system." He said U.S. and Bosnian officials had told the prisoners' lawyers about the upcoming transfer.

The Pentagon typically does not discuss detainee transfers until they are completed, citing security concerns.

Attorneys for the men said they suspected two of the five — Saber Lahmar and Lakhdar Boumediene — were not released because they do not have Bosnian citizenship.

Lahmar never had Bosnian citizenship and Bosnian authorities stripped Boumediene of his after saying he gave false information when he applied.

Boumediene was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case this year that gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment. He has been on a hunger strike to protest his detention, according to Oleskey.

The cases of more than 200 additional Guantanamo detainees are still pending, many in front of other judges in Washington's federal courts.

Bosnia's Supreme Court ruled that authorities there had violated the law by handing the men over to the United States without offering any evidence against them.

Dizdarevic pursued criminal charges against several Bosnian officials and sued the state of Bosnia in the European Court of Human Rights.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups supported her.

"My fight for three men to return home is over but my fight for their human rights continues," she said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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