February 25, 2009 / 3:36 PM / 11 years ago

FACTBOX: Some details on Guantanamo prison

(Reuters) - Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen with British residency, returned to Britain a free man on Monday after being held at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years.

Here are some facts about Guantanamo:

WHY WAS IT SET UP?

* The detention camp was set up to hold foreigners captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

* The United States holds about 250 prisoners at Guantanamo and has released or transferred to other governments about 520 other men and teenagers previously held there.

* Charges are pending against 21 Guantanamo prisoners, though Susan Crawford, the Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo trials, has only referred 14 cases to trial. Judges have issued orders freezing the proceedings in six of those.

GUANTANAMO CLOSES:

* Bush administration officials repeatedly said they wanted to close the controversial prison but never advanced a plan to do so. They concluded in 2008 that closure would require legislation that was too difficult to negotiate in a heated election season.

* Last month newly elected President Barack Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo. Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison, barred harsh treatment of terrorism suspects held there and closed secret CIA jails overseas.

— The European Union and human rights groups praised Obama’s move, which kicked off a review process to deal with relocating, releasing or prosecuting the remaining detainees.

— Obama ordered Guantanamo prosecutors to seek 120-day delays in all pending cases to give his administration time to decide whether to scrap the widely criticized tribunals created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists outside the regular U.S. court system.

* The chief judge for the Guantanamo war crimes court, at the end of January, refused President Obama’s request to delay proceedings against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi charged with plotting an attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

— The surprise ruling could force the Pentagon to withdraw the charges, though they could be refiled later if the Obama administration decides to keep the special tribunals at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

(For main story please click on [nLN547045])

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, Jane Sutton in Miami and Donna Smith in Washington;

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