Leahy confident Obama will close Guantanamo, with time

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s convinced that president elect Barack Obama wants to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible.

But Leahy says it may take a few months for the new Administration to work out some legal issues involved with shutting the center down.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) During the recent campaign, president elect Obama pledged to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible. Over 250 people are currently incarcerated at the military prison. Many have never been formally charged with a crime even though they have been held for a number of years.

Next week, after being sworn into office, Obama is expected to issue an executive order that calls for the detention center to be shut down but that doesn’t mean the facility is closing its doors anytime soon.

In recent interviews, Obama said it was unlikely that the center will be closed during the first 100 days of his Administration because of complex legal problems involving a number of the prisoners.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, has been a long time critic of the Guantanamo Bay facility. He says there’s no doubt that the president elect is committed to closing the center down but he says it’s not a simple thing to do:

(Leahy) "I’ve gone over the law with him I’ve gone over the both the things we’ve seen publicly as well as the classified aspects of it and I think he has to be careful the most important thing he has to do is demonstrate to the rest of the world that justice is back in the United States we do have a rule of law in the United States and we’re going to follow it."

The Obama Administration is expected to review the case of every individual being held at Guantanamo Bay to determine if the person should be released or not.

Leahy says some of these cases are very complicated:

(Leahy)"A number of the people it’s going to be fairly easy but we come down to a small core of people who are one we known they’re very dangerous secondly it’s questionable how the information was obtained on them and thirdly other countries don’t want them and some we could very easily just release to other countries but we’re concerned that they’re going to be tortured or killed if they’re sent back there so it’s complex."

Leahy says he plans to work closely with the Obama Administration to resolve many of the outstanding legal issues so that the Guantanamo Bay facility can be permanently closed as soon as possible.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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