Guantanamo Detainees Transferred to France, Hungary

The U.S. is planning to transfer or try 211 remaining Gitmo prisoners.

December 1, 2009, 12:12 PM

Dec. 1, 2009— -- The Justice Department announced today it has released two more detainees from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to foreign governments abroad – the latest development in the agency's move to close the embattled military prison.

Late last night, Sabir Lahmar, a native of Algeria, was transferred to the government of France, and an unnamed Palestinian detainee was transferred to the government of Hungary, which requested that the prisoner's identity be withheld for security and privacy reasons.

The transfers drop the total number of detainees remaining in Guantanamo to 211. Since 2002, more than 500 detainees have been released.

Officials say the transfers followed an extensive review by the Guantanamo Review Task Force of the detainees' cases and the potential security risk their release could pose. The Justice Department also says it informed Congress of the transfers at least 15 days before they occurred.

In 2008, a U.S. federal judge ordered Lahmar released from Guantanamo, where he was originally being held on suspicion of plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In a statement, the French government said U.S. and French officials determined Lahmar was "innocent of any charges relating to the involvement in potential terrorist activities." Lahmar is the second former Gitmo detainee accepted by France.

On Monday, the Justice Department transferred custody of two other detainees -- Tunisians Abel Ben Mabrouk bin Hamida Boughanmi and Mohammed Tahir Riyadh Nasseri -- to the Italian government, which has outstanding arrest warrants for the men.

Both detainees, whom U.S. intelligence officials believe allegedly provided financial and other logistical support to terrorists and smuggling rings, are are expected to face prosecution in Italy.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Obama Administration is making progress in shutting down Guantanamo but that it will likely not meet a self-imposed January deadline for its closure.

"Sometime this year we ought to be able to do that," Holder said Nov. 18.

Administration officials say 40 to 50 of the remaining detainees will be transferred to the United States to face prosecution in federal courts or military tribunals. About 100 will be transferred to other countries.

"The decisions for the remaining detainees are still pending approval," Holder said. "But we expect to have decisions for all detainees well before even the January 22 deadline."

ABC News' Jason Ryan and Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

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