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Friday, 24 September 2010

Germany: Two ex-GITMO prisoners arrive after Germany-US agreement

A spokesman for the Hamburg government confirmed that Ahmed Mohammed al-Shurfa, a stateless man of Palestinian descent born in Saudi Arabia, had arrived in the northern German port city.

The spokesperson said that the 34-year-old would first be brought to a medical clinic, where he will be given an extensive check-up over the next few days. Officials said the goal was to help reintegrate the former prisoner into society, with the hope that he will ultimately become self-sufficient. The Americans arrested al-Shurfa in Afghanistan in 2001 and he has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002.

Later on Thursday, a second former Guantanamo prisoner -- 36-year-old Mahmoud Salim al-Ali of Syria -- arrived in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in central-western Germany, an official with the state's Interior Ministry said. "According to our knowledge, he does not pose any threat," a spokesman said. "We haven't brought a sleeper into our country," he said, referring to the phenomenon of potential terrorists like the 9/11 celll that infiltrate society and appear to be normal residents before they are activated.

'Humanitarian Reasons'

Earlier this year, Germany said it was prepared to host two former inmates from the Guantanamo prison. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the decision had been made for "humanitarian reasons." "I'm not only the federal interior minister, but also a human being and a Christian," the politician, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said as he announced his decision in July. The decision had been contingent on German states volunteering to take in the former prisoners, who in many instances couldn't return to their countries of origin. Both Hamburg, which is a city-state, and Rhineland-Palatinate agreed.

...In the case of a third prisoner, German officials rejected the request to allow him to be transferred to Germany because the government could not conclusively confirm that he didn't represent any threat or danger, de Maizière said in the summer. The interior minister said Germany did not plan to take in any other Guantanamo prisoners and that the government would respond negatively to any additional requests.
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