Britain faces a major headache in deciding what to do with four detainees held as terrorism suspects for about three years without charges at the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and due home soon. Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Belmar and Moazzam Begg will be released within weeks from the camp, set up in January 2002 to hold fighters captured in Afghanistan and others suspected of association with al-Qaeda.
Amid fears of an attack on British soil, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has introduced tough terror laws, but it must now balance the need to protect citizens with the requirement to respect human rights.
Police officers will decide what to do with the men when they return. ‘‘It’s up in the air what they could be charged with as we don’t know what the evidence is yet,’’ said a police spokesman. He said the four were not wanted in Britain before their capture in Afghanistan.
For a government that has put security at centrestage for the next election, expected in May, the prospect of four former terror suspects walking free is unappealing.
Yet more awkward is the contrast with the fate of nine foreign terror suspects held in a British prison, described by rights groups as ‘‘Britain’s Guantanamo’’, even after the country’s top court ruled against it a month ago.
‘‘It shows a glaring contradiction. The government has worked for the release of detainees in Guantanamo, but is detaining foreign nationals in its own jails without trial and in breach of fundamental human rights,’’ said an Amnesty International spokesman. — Reuters