British team visits hunger-striking inmate at Guantanamo prison

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A British team has visited a hunger-striking detainee at Guantanamo Bay and concluded he is medically fit to return to the country, authorities announced Sunday.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A British team has visited a hunger-striking detainee at Guantanamo Bay and concluded he is medically fit to return to the country, authorities announced Sunday.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the visitors, who included a doctor, checked on the health of former British resident Binyam Mohamed and met Saturday with medical staff at the U.S. military prison on Cuba's southeast tip.

"There are no immediate medical concerns that would prevent (Mohamed) from travelling to the U.K., should the United States government agree to the U.K.'s request for release and return," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian who moved to Britain as a teenager, has been on hunger strike for more than a month and is being force-fed at Guantanamo. He has been held at the isolated U.S. prison since 2004 and launched the strike to protest his continued detention.

Mohamed had been accused of plotting al-Qaida attacks in the United States, but war-crimes charges against him at Guantanamo were dropped last year.

Mohamed's U.S. military lawyer, air force Lt.-Col. Yvonne Bradley, had appealed to Britain to pressure President Barack Obama's administration for his release.

"I'm anticipating and hopeful that this is the beginning of the end, and that Mr. Mohamed will be released and returned to the U.K. soon," Bradley said.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. government is in continued talks with British authorities. He said Mohamed is in "overall good health," but would not speculate about his case.

He noted that the president has ordered a review of all Guantanamo detainee cases "and once that is completed, we will be in a better position to determine the way ahead for each individual detainee," Gordon said Sunday.

The Obama administration is moving to close the Guantanamo prison and has said it wants to ensure that the roughly 245 suspects remaining there are given international and U.S. legal rights. The inmates include 22-year-old Canadian Omar Khadr.

Mohamed's civilian lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said the detainee might be returned to Britain as soon as this week.

"With any luck, after seven years of tremendous abuse, he is going to be set free," said Stafford Smith, director of the British law group Reprieve, which represents dozens of Guantanamo prisoners. "I very much hope he will be home in the next few days."

Mohamed was sent to Guantanamo in 2004, but claims that first he was held and beaten in Pakistan for three months and then was sent by the U.S. to Morocco, where he says he was tortured and interrogated for 18 months.

The Bush administration insisted it never engaged in extraordinary rendition, in which suspects are handed over to countries that brutally interrogate prisoners.

-With files from The Canadian Press.

 
 
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