LONDON -- Five British prisoners at the US jail for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be sent back to Britain within 24 hours, Home Secretary David Blunkett said yesterday.
The five are among nine British citizens at the US base in eastern Cuba. About 640 terror suspects are at Guantanamo Bay. The military has freed 88 and transferred a dozen to the custody of their home countries.
British officials say it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether the five to be released will face charges at home.
"When they return they will, of course, go through the normal process of being interviewed by the [police] counterterrorism branch in London," Blunkett said, in remarks aired by the BBC. "And the material that has been provided will be evaluated."
Blunkett made the announcement while speaking at Harvard University.
The fate of the four other British citizens in custody remains uncertain. Relatives of the men were in Washington yesterday calling for their release.
The US military does not comment on any releases from Guantanamo until after they occur. A senior State Department official said he could not confirm the transfer.
Legal specialists believe it unlikely the five British citizens to be released will face trial at home because any information gleaned from the men during interrogation would be inadmissible since they had no access to lawyers.
Lawyers also said it was questionable whether British courts have jurisdiction over alleged criminal acts in Afghanistan, unless acts of terrorism or treason could be proven.
Families and lawyers of the five prisoners have insisted throughout their two-year-long detention that the men are innocent and were mistakenly caught up in the US war on terror.