April 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Attorney general seeks placement for detainees

About 240 inmates will need new homes
Devlin Barrett Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Attorney General Eric Holder looks upon a press conference after a meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked European officials Tuesday to accept some freed Guantanamo Bay detainees, and one government official 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.”

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. European leaders are still divided on the issue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already made what was billed as a symbolic gesture of agreeing to take one Guantanamo detainee. An Austrian minister recently said that rather than asking other countries to take detainees, the U.S. should take them.

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.

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 EU in that regard,” Holder said at a news conference after the meeting.

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