WASHINGTON, Apr 20: The Pentagon late released its most extensive list of foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, providing the names and nationalities of 558 detainees who went through a hearing process there.
The Pentagon posted the 11-page list late yesterday on its Web site in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press.
Starting with the arrival from Afghanistan of the first group of 20 shackled and masked detainees on Jan. 11, 2002, the United States had never until now released a comprehensive list of the names and nationalities of the prisoners at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon long resisted providing the information, citing security concerns such as keeping groups like al Qaeda in the dark about who was being imprisoned.
The United States previously identified some detainees in legal documents, while the names of hundreds had been made public by their relatives or lawyers.
On March 3, the Pentagon released more than 5,000 pages of documents relating to military hearings given to detainees at the base, which formally identified hundreds of the detainees as the result of a court order in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press.
The Pentagon on April 3 released about 2,600 pages of additional documents with more information on the military review hearings given to detainees.
While the new list provided by the Pentagon contained 558 names, there are now about 490 detainees at the Guantanamo base the Pentagon said.
Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, said the list included some detainees who went through the review process but had since been transported out of the base.
''The Department of Defense determined that it is prudent to release the list and while many of the names are already a matter of public record, today's release provides the public with a single consolidated list containing this information,'' Vician said.
Rights activists have condemned the indefinite detentions and the prisoners' lack of legal rights. UN rights investigators have called for the closure of the prison.
Only 10 of the detainees at Guantanamo have been charged and not one of the trials has been completed. Most of the detainees were captured in Afghanistan and the Pentagon accused many of complicity with al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The Pentagon had designated the detainees as ''enemy combatants,'' denying them the rights accorded to prisoners of war under international agreements.