World News

Germany takes 2 Guantanamo inmates after long debate

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said on Wednesday it would accept two inmates from Guantanamo Bay, ending an awkward debate with Washington about the U.S. detention camp that it had long criticised.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference Germany had agreed to take two people -- one from Syria and the other from Palestinian Territories.

He added, however, that Germany had refused to accept a third detainee from one of those two countries and would turn down all future requests from the United States to take in more detainees.

“We are not going to allow any terrorists into Germany,” de Maiziere said.

“The United States has asked us to take three people who were cleared for release. We decided to take in two who we were almost certain would pose no threat to society. With the third we weren’t sure.”

He said the two, who he said speak Arabic but no German, would arrive in Germany within a few weeks. He said one would settle in the northern port city of Hamburg -- where 9/11 plotters had once lived -- and one in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

“It took so long because we had to conduct our investigation responsibly,” he said. “It’s a humanitarian matter. We have a responsibility to help.”

Germany is among the European countries that said they would consider taking detainees from Guantanamo, a camp that provoked criticism from Washington’s allies. In February, U.S. authorities transferred four detainess to Albania and Spain.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was a vocal critic of the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay and publicly pressed the U.S. government to close it. But her government then long resisted Washington’s requests to accept inmates. (Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Philippa Fletcher)