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If they are resettled in Europe, experts say, they would essentially be given their freedom.

“The Europeans have no choice,” Mr. Ayers said. ”They can’t try them because they’ve been convicted of no crime in their countries. So their only option is to bring them here and turn them loose.”

Some European politicians have signaled they are unwilling to shoulder Washington’s burden. While Germany´s foreign minister suggested his country could take in ex-prisoners, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble appeared to rule that out.

“Creating Guantanamo was a mistake in the first place, which by the way, the administration of George W. Bush wanted to correct. … America must deal with the consequences,” Mr. Schaeuble told a German daily.

“What I can see emerging are divisions, not only between European countries, but within countries,” Mr. Dworkin said. “At the same time, there´s also a growing desire to have a kind of European approach to the problem.”

Under the order signed by Mr. Obama Thursday, Guantanamo must be closed within a year. Experts estimate it will take months of negotiations before any deal is struck for sending ex-inmates to Europe.

“I think there will probably be a handful of European countries that will take 1,2,3 detainees. That order of magnitude,” Mr. Ayers predicted. “The majority are not going to take any.”