Politicians squabble over Gitmo prisoners

German politicians are bickering over whether Berlin should accept Guantánamo Bay inmates in order to help America close the terrorist detention centre.

Politicians squabble over Gitmo prisoners
Photo: DPA

Many of the EU interior ministers present at a summit in Prague on Thursday said they had no interest in taking in suspected terrorists, but said they wanted to discuss the matter with incoming US President Barack Obama, who promised to close the controversial facility during his campaign.

“The responsibility for those who have been held for years at Guantánamo lies with the United States of America,” German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said, adding that he would take any prisoners originally from Germany, but didn’t know there were any.

But before Christmas, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany would be willing to take in former Guantánamo prisoners though the US has not officially requested other nations do so.

“Ms Merkel and I need no instruction from certain people,” Schäuble said Thursday in response to the idea.

Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully negotiated for the 2006 release of Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish national with legal German residence, from Guantánamo Bay. Her predecessor, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who had Steinmeier as his chief of staff at the time, did not attempt to have Kurnaz released.

The US opened Guantánamo Bay after September 11, 2001 to hold accused terrorists. The facility has garnered strong criticism from human rights organisations because many of the some 250 prisoners have been held without trial.

Schäuble commended Obama’s intention to address the situation, saying he was happy it would “finally be corrected.”