Guantanamo inmate set for transfer.

Seven Spanish policemen have flown to Guantanamo Bay to escort home a Spanish national detained there.

Spanish authorities have alleged that Abderrahman Ahmad - captured in Afghanistan in 2001 - is a member of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday that Mr Ahmad's repatriation would be the first in a series of prisoner transfers.

Mr Ahmad, 29, is from Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta.

He is one of four Guantanamo inmates to be charged by Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon with having links to an al-Qaeda cell in Spain discovered in November 2001.

Mr Ahmad is expected to appear before Judge Garzon for questioning on Friday evening.

The Spanish government has said it will seek the extradition of the other three men.

'Enemy combatants'

Mr Powell said the decision to transfer Mr Ahmad followed "many conversations" and "good co-operation" with the Spanish government.

"It was important for us to protect ourselves by detaining this individual, finding out what he knew about potential terrorist activities and what his involvement might have been," he told Spanish television.

More than 600 suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters, from more than 40 countries, are being held without charge at the US base in Guantanamo Bay.

Most have been held since the US-led war in Afghanistan, which followed the 11 September attacks in 2001.

Washington says the prisoners are "enemy combatants" who have no right to lawyers and may be held indefinitely without charge.

Many prisoners at the base have been held for two years without access to relatives or legal counsel.

[Source: BBC Online News Report, London, UK, 12Feb04]

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