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Official: Europe likely to accept Gitmo inmates

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked European officials Tuesday to accept some freed Guantanamo Bay detainees, and one minister at the meeting predicted he'll get his wish.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked European officials Tuesday to accept some freed Guantanamo Bay detainees, and one minister at the meeting predicted he'll get his wish.

Meeting with a number of European officials to update extradition and legal cooperation treaties, Holder asked for their help in closing the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We had a very frank conversation," Holder said, adding later: "No promises were made."

Currently, about 240 inmates are still held at Guantanamo. As many as 60 may not be sent back to their home countries because of concerns they could be mistreated.

When it comes to the prospect of having former international terror suspects living free in society, the Obama administration is trying to overcome the "not in my backyard" sentiment that exists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ivan Langer, the Czech Minister of Interior, told The Associated Press he believes some European nations will accept Guantanamo detainees, though he doesn't think his country will.

"Yes, I expect Europe will take some, and there is a strong will to do so among some countries," said Langer, who opposes such detainees coming to his country.

"We won't accept anybody, because there is a very low chance of integration of such people" in the Czech Republic, Langer said.

He added that it is critical for U.S. authorities to share "maximum information" on the detainees' cases, so European Union officials know exactly who they are accepting into their countries.

An Austrian minister recently said that rather than asking other countries to take detainees, the U.S. should take them.

Sharing info
Holder is in the middle of a three-city European tour, meeting with his law-enforcement counterparts on issues ranging from Guantanamo to organized crime to child pornography. Also attending Tuesday's meeting were E.U. Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot, Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, and Czech Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil.

The administration maintains some number of the remaining Guantanamo detainees can safely be set free, and hopes to place some of them in Europe.

"We need to find places for these people to go, and we have asked for assistance from our partners in the E.U. in that regard," Holder said at a news conference after the meeting.

European leaders at the meeting replied that the U.S. must provide much more detail about the backgrounds of the detainees.

"What we are asking for is sharing maximum information," said Langer.

Langer said the European officials are also determined to find a coordinated approach among themselves.

"No one can say: 'You cannot take people,' or 'You have to take people'," the minister said.

A day earlier, Holder met with British officials who signaled a willingness to consider any request they take Guantanamo detainees.

Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees. Some nations, such as Germany, are more divided on the issue.

New extradition treaties
On Wednesday, Holder plans to give a speech in Berlin about the U.S. goal to close the detention facility in nine months.

The chief purpose of his stop in Prague, though, was to formally exchange letters confirming new versions of an extradition treaty and legal assistance treaty with European countries.

Janet Napolitano, the U.S. homeland security secretary, had also planned to attend but canceled in order to deal with the swine flu outbreak that has spread from Mexico to the U.S. and beyond. Napolitano's deputy, Jane Holl Lute, is attending in her place.

Law-enforcement officials say the new extradition and legal treaties will make it easier for police to launch joint investigations across borders and oceans, something necessary to curb the increasingly international nature of major crimes.

Under terms of the new agreement, suspects can face extradition if they are accused of acts that are crimes in both their own country and the country that wants to prosecute them.

Under the more traditional pattern of extradition treaties, such agreements had to spell out exactly which crimes were subject to extradition, meaning that the complicated legal documents needed frequent updating.