Switzerland to take in Guantanamo detainee

ZURICH Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:27am EST

A view of Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Deborah Gembara

A view of Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Deborah Gembara

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland will accept a detainee from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba after the United States requested the Alpine country and other states to house prisoners.

The Swiss canton of Geneva will accept the Uzbek, who was classified by the United States as "cleared for release" in 2005, the Swiss government said on Wednesday.

The Uzbek will get status as an immigrant and can take on a job, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference, adding Switzerland could house further prisoners.

"In the past, the Federal Council has criticized the detention of persons at Guantanamo as in violation of international law," the government said in a statement.

"With its decision today, it aims to play its part in solving the Guantanamo problem, thereby upholding Switzerland's humanitarian tradition," it said.

The transfer of prisoners is part of a drive by U.S. President Barack Obama to close the widely criticized jail set up by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to house suspected militants captured abroad.

"The USA's accusation that the man has links with terrorist groups has never been proven," the Swiss government said. "The U.S. authorities have assured Switzerland that the man has been neither prosecuted nor convicted, and that he constitutes no danger to public safety."

Earlier this month, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said his country should accept one detainee from Guantanamo and the French Foreign Ministry has said two detainees had been sent to France and Hungary.

Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office but he has acknowledged that the January 22 deadline would likely be missed because of political and diplomatic obstacles.

More than 200 detainees remain in the prison. About 90 have been cleared to be transferred but the Obama administration, limited by Congress from bringing them into the United States, has struggled to convince other countries to take them in.

(Reporting by Katie Reid)

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