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U.S. To Send Some Guantanamo Inmates To Illinois Prison

A guard watches over detainees inside the Guantanamo detention facility.
Officials in Washington say U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the government to buy a prison in Illinois to house terror suspects to be transferred from the Guantanamo military facility in Cuba.

The decision is a key step toward fulfilling Obama's pledge to close next year the Guantanamo facility, which is mired in human rights criticism for holding suspects for years without trial.

Officials in Washington say only a "limited number" of Guantanamo inmates will be moved to the prison, the Thomson Correctional Center in rural northwest Illinois, which was built by local state authorities as a high-security prison but which presently is almost empty.

The officials did not explain what that means, but an aide to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said the number of transferees would not be more than 100.

Obama's plan to bring Guantanamo suspects to the U.S. mainland for trial in U.S. civil courts was met initially with fierce opposition. Opponents said their presence on U.S. soil could inspire new terrorist attacks on the United States.

But Durbin, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and residents of the small rural community of Thomson appear to welcome the choice as a boost to the local economy.

"This is something that is very good for our state, it's good for our economy, it's good for our public safety," Quinn said last month. "We believe in America in making sure that safety comes first. In our state of Illinois when we have a prison we make sure that it has the kind of security that protects the civilian population, but at the same time we understand that when there is wrongdoing there must be punishment, there must be incarceration."

Meanwhile, the legal complications stemming from the unlimited detentions and military law applied at Guantanamo Bay roll on.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by four former Guantanamo Bay prisoners arguing that they should be able to proceed with their lawsuit against top U.S. officials for torture and religious abuse.

The court on December 14 refused to review a U.S. appeals court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit by the four British citizens of Afghan origin over their treatment, on the grounds that the officials enjoyed immunity.

Another Guantanamo-related case is going forward in Kenya, where a former inmate is suing the Kenyan government for $30 million for wrongful detainment and torture, before he was handed over to the U.S. authorities.

The Obama administration has also made efforts to get allies abroad to accept some of the detainees remaining at Guantanamo, but with little success.

Bulgaria is one of the countries most recently approached by Washington. But Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said on December 12 that his country would likely take only a single person.

Other European allies have given similarly tepid responses, with the French Foreign Ministry saying last week that one detainee had been sent to France for resettlement, and another to Hungary.

compiled from agency reports