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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Biden calls for Guantanamo prison closure

Chuck Neubauer Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday the United States needs to shut down the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that houses suspects captured in the war on terrorism.

“I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. “Those whom we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don’t, let go.”

The Delaware senator, who also is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that allegations of mistreatment of inmates at Guantanamo and at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq – along with last week’s Pentagon report of five instances in which Guantanamo guards desecrated the Quran, the Muslim holy book – have “become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position.”

Biden said the Judiciary Committee was expected to hold hearings in the next couple of weeks on his proposal to set up an independent commission to examine Guantanamo and other prisons housing terrorism suspects.

“But the bottom line,” he said, “is I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence than if there were no Gitmo.”

About 520 terrorism suspects are held at the facility, part of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon reported in April that 234 detainees had been released or returned to their home countries.

Last month, Amnesty International, the human rights group based in London, called the Guantanamo detention center “the gulag of our time.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called that charge “reprehensible.”

On Sunday, the executive director of Amnesty’s U.S. office said the comparison of Guantanamo with the Soviet gulag “is not an exact or literal analogy.”

“People are not being starved in those facilities,” William Schulz told “Fox News Sunday.” “They’re not being subjected to forced labor.

“But,” he continued, “there are some similarities. The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared.”