- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESSThe Pentagon is preparing to release a dozen or more prisoners, possibly including some teenagers, from the high-security compound for terrorism suspects in Cuba.About 660 prisoners from 42 countries are being held at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, many captured during the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Officials have declined to identify them or their countries or even say exactly how many are being held.An official said yesterday that he believed juveniles were among those to be released. News that several boys from ages 13 to 16 were among the prisoners drew criticism earlier from human rights groups and a call for their immediate release.One official said 20 to 30 prisoners would be released from the prison that was opened in January last year. Another said the number was 12 to 15.Defense Department officials denied that the release was the result of a complaint by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who has pressed the Pentagon to move faster in determining the fate of the prisoners at Guantanamo, some of whom have been held 18 months without charges or access to lawyers. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.In what officials have said was a strongly worded letter, Mr. Powell told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that eight allied nations had complained that their citizens are being held. He said the situation was undermining efforts to win international cooperation in the war on terror.The release has been in the planning process for several weeks, Pentagon officials said.An official said juveniles had been among those planned for release weeks ago, but that it was difficult to fly them out of Cuba at the time because troops were busy with the war in Iraq.Officials had said long ago that some prisoners could be released to their countries if it was certain those nations would deal with them properly. Talks have been under way with various countries, but no results have been announced.Countries that have said publicly that they want their citizens home include Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Pakistan. Officials said they didn’t know the home countries of the prisoners to be released.Since the prison was opened, only 23 persons are known to have been released. They were all men, including one who was mentally ill and another reported to be in his 70s.

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