Most Guantanamo prisoners to be freed
Most of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay are expected to be released or extradited, the deputy commander of the unit that runs the military base has said.
Brigadier-General Martin Lucenti told The Financial Times that the US did not have enough evidence to prosecute all the prisoners, alleged to be al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
"Of the 550 that we have, I would say most of them, the majority of them, will either be released or transferred to their own countries," he said.
"Most of these guys weren't fighting. They were running. Even if somebody has been found to be an enemy combatant, many of them will be released because they will be of low intelligence value and low threat status.
"We don't have a level of evidence to feel that we can be confident to prosecute them (all). We have guys here who have never told us anything, except to say that they want to cut off the heads of the infidels if they get a chance."
Brigadier-General Jay Hood, commander of the taskforce that runs the Guantanamo camps, said some people held were of "tremendous intelligence value" and the US still had much to learn from them.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Defence Department would not specify the number that it expected to release.
But David Hicks' Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said it was always clear the majority of prisoners would be released back to their own m countries and 190 so far had been freed.
The US Supreme Court finding that Guantanamo Bay detainees could seek action through the US courts had sped up the process of prisoner release.
However Hicks - due to stand trial on January 10 on charges of attempted murder and conspiracy - was unlikely to be part of any wholesale release of detainees.
"I think this is unlikely to affect me," Mr Kenny said.
"But it causes me grave concern when people are being released who were clearly in very similar circumstances to David. It raises the question of why there has been selective prosecution."
He said those recently released included a senior Taliban commander who was released to his own country while Hicks was still held.
Australian Mamdouh Habib, also held at Guantanamo Bay, has not been charged.
Washington classified the Guantanamo detainees as enemy combatants rather than prisoners of war, which would have given them a host of legal rights under international law.
Human rights groups and lawyers have criticised the US for holding prisoners at the base indefinitely and most without charges or legal representation.
More than 150 prisoners have been released or repatriated for further detention since the first detainees arrived at the base in early 2002.
- Reuters, with Penny Debelle