Obama team clears 75 at Guantanamo for release

MIAMI Mon Sep 28, 2009 4:24pm EDT

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Deborah Gembara

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Deborah Gembara

MIAMI (Reuters) - An Obama administration task force has so far cleared 75 of the remaining 223 Guantanamo prisoners for release as part of its effort to close the detention camp, a military spokesman said on Monday.

The review team is examining each prisoner's case to decide who will be held for trial and who can be sent home or resettled in other nations.

President Barack Obama had set a January 22 deadline to shut the detention camp although Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC News in an interview broadcast on Sunday that "it's going to be tough" to meet the deadline.

As the review team makes its decisions, military officials at Guantanamo post an updated list in the camps to let the prisoners know how many from each nation have been judged free to go.

"It was an opportunity to just provide better communication," said Navy Lieutenant Commander Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the Guantanamo detention operation. "There's a lot of information out there and you get a lot of things from a lot of different angles. It helps put it in a more succinct context for them."

The prisoners are well aware of Obama's announcement that the camp would be closed and have heard piecemeal information from their lawyers and relatives during phone calls arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross, he said.

The list is posted in Arabic, Pashto and English. The latest list of 78 prisoners includes two Uzbeks sent to Ireland and a Yemeni returned to his homeland on Saturday, an indication that some progress is being made in thinning the camp population of those who are not considered a threat.

"We are not focused on whether the deadline will or won't be met on a particular day," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "We are focused on making ... the most progress that is possible."

Some on the list are among the 30 ordered freed by U.S. courts but still awaiting transfer, including 13 Chinese Uighurs. The Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to accept most of them.

Also on the list are 26 other captives from Yemen, nine from Tunisia, seven from Algeria, four from Syria, three each from Libya and Saudi Arabia, two each from Uzbekistan, Egypt, the West Bank and Kuwait, and one each from Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

Most were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan after U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to oust al Qaeda in response to the September 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

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