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Sole spanish prisoner held guantanamo released to spain { February 14 2004 }

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Last Update: Saturday, February 14, 2004. 3:30pm (AEDT)
Spanish Guantanamo prisoner sent home to face charges
The sole Spanish prisoner held at the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, has arrived at an air base near Madrid to face charges of belonging to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

Dubbed "The Spanish Taliban" by the press, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, a 30-year-old Muslim from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta adjoining northern Morocco, had been held at Guantanamo since his capture more than two years ago during the US war in Afghanistan.

He arrived at the Torrejon base aboard a Spanish air force plane with eight police escorts and was met by Judge Baltasar Garzon, judicial sources said.

From there he was driven to the country's top court, the Audiencia Nacional, in the centre of Madrid where a forensic doctor was to examine him.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell had said on Wednesday that the Spanish citizen would be repatriated.

"At the request of the Spanish government, the US authorities have agreed to proceed with the immediate release of Spanish citizen Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, detained at Guantanamo naval base for his presumed collaboration with the terrorist organisation Al Qaeda," a Spanish foreign ministry source said.

He was to undergo medical, physical and psychological tests for 10 days before being questioned by Garzon, who has charged him with membership of a terrorist organisation.

Judicial sources said the public prosecutor would be seeking jail for Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed as an alleged member of Al Qaeda.

Suspected of having belonged to a Spanish-based Al Qaeda cell that Spanish authorities dismantled in November 2001, he is one of some 660 prisoners from 42 countries, including 21 Europeans, who have been held for more than two years in legal limbo at Guantanamo.

Most were captured in Afghanistan as part of the US "war on terror" following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The United States has designated the detainees illegal combatants rather than prisoners of war and has reserved the right to keep them in detention indefinitely without trial.

-- AFP

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