You're Free To Go...Not So Fast

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[Military]
More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.

The delays illustrate how much harder it will be to empty the prison at Guantanamo than it was to fill it after it opened in January 2002 to detain fighters captured in Afghanistan and terrorism suspects captured overseas.

In many cases, the prisoners' countries do not want them back. Yemen, for instance, has balked at accepting some of the 106 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo by challenging the legality of their citizenship.

Another major obstacle: U.S. laws that prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses, as in the case of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists who have been cleared for release but fear they could be executed for political reasons if returned to China.

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