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Germany says willing to consider taking Guantanamo detainees

The US is expected to make requests to European allies to accommodate detainees from the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within weeks, amid reports that Germany could be willing to help.

Barbed wire at Guantanamo with a US flag in the background

Will Europe help the US solve their Guantanamo problem?

Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that Germany would consider accepting former inmates from the controversial US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Schaeuble had previously expressed reservations about the possiblity of Germany taking Guantanamo detainees, but in January German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an open letter to US President Barack Obama that Germany would be willing to do so if it would help Obama close the naval base in Cuba.

Key meeting with US envoy

Schaeuble's apparent change of heart follows a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who earlier in the week visited London and Prague to discuss the closure of the disputed detention center.

One of Obama's first acts after taking office in January was to order the closure of the anti-terror lockup by the end of the year.

The prison, where prisoners have been held without charges or trial, had been widely criticized by the international community for its use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" which included simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

The previous US administration under George W. Bush claimed that the techniques used at Guantanamo did not amount to torture.

Willing allies?

Out of the 241 detainees at Guantanamo, 30 people have so far been cleared for release. Holder said in Berlin that the US would be likely to submit formal requests to allies to take in former detainees in the coming weeks.

Detainee being escorted

The US is unsure where to put its prisoners once released

Holder added that he had been "pleasantly surprised" by the willingness of allies to help resettle Guantanamo inmates. Since taking office in January, the UK has been sent one prisoner from Guantanamo and France has pledged to take another.

Following a meeting with Schaeuble, Holder told reporters: "Although no specific requests were made and no specific promises were given, what I have worked to do during the course of the trip is to lay a foundation for more specific requests that I think will come in the future."

"I know that Europe did not open Guantanamo and that in fact a great many on this continent opposed it," Holder said. "To close Guantanamo we must all make sacrifices and we must all be willing to make unpopular choices."

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told Deutsche Welle that first of all, Germany expected detainees to be released to their home countries, and that Germany was not aware of any German nationals being held at Guantanamo.

Comments from Interior Ministry

In cases where former detainees could not be returned to their home countries, Germany considered the US to be primarily responsible for the accommodation of former detainees.

"If this is not possible then the US would need to explain why this is the case," the spokesman said. "If Germany is asked to take a specific person the first thing which would have to be checked is whether there is a relationship between this person and Germany."

Spain to investigate

In a separate development, Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon on Wednesday formally launched a criminal investigation into whether US officials condoned the use of torture at Guantanamo.

The probe has been given greater impetus following the release last week by the Obama administration of classified documents which list the interrogation methods used at Guantanamo. The allegations of torture include the use of sexual abuse, beatings and the throwing of fluids into prisoners' eyes.

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