4 Jan 2009

Australia refuses Guantanamo prison intake

7:31 am on 4 January 2009

Australia has refused a request from the United States to take inmates from the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the federal government had advised the US that Australia would not resettle inmates being held at Guantanamo Bay as terror suspects.

It was the second request made to Australia, along with a number of other countries, to take some of the detainees.

Australia had declined both requests, Ms Gillard said.

She said the "resettlement requests were considered on a case by case basis against Australia's stringent national security and immigration criteria".

Ms Gillard said the requests did not meet those criteria and have been rejected.

She said Australia "will consider any future requests on a case by case basis against these stringent criteria for both national security and immigration."

She said both requests had been made by the administration of George Bush, not of president-elect Barack Obama.

About 255 men are still held at the Guantanamo naval base, including 60 the US has cleared for release but cannot repatriate for fear they will be tortured or persecuted in their home countries.

Australia was an original member of the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq and helped oust the Taliban from control of Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.

An Australian man, David Hicks, was the first Guantanamo inmate convicted of supporting terrorism, and was returned home from the prison in May 2007 after pleading guilty. Strict Australian police controls on Hicks were recently dropped.

Another Australian, Mamdouh Habib, was released from Guantanamo without charge in 2005.