LONDON – All four men who were arrested on their return to Britain from U.S. military detention at Guantanamo Bay (search), Cuba, were released Wednesday without charge, police said.
A fifth man had not been arrested when the group arrived at Northolt Royal Air Force Base (search) Tuesday, and he was freed within hours.
A Metropolitan Police statement announced Wednesday night that one of the arrested four had been released. Less than two hours later, a second statement said the remaining three were freed without charge as well.
The men had been identified as Ruhal Ahmed, Jamal al-Harith, Tarek Dergoul, Asif Iqbal, and Shafiq Rasul.
Jamal al-Harith was the man released Tuesday evening after the four arrested men were taken to a high-security police station in west London.
The four had been arrested under an anti-terrorism law, but their lawyers and relatives insisted they were innocent and should have been freed.
Dergoul was freed first Wednesday night. Max Clifford, spokesman for his family, said he would be taken to a private place to be reunited with his family.
He said Dergoul was in a mentally fragile condition and was having difficulty walking.
"Physically he is not in a very good condition," said Clifford. Clifford said Dergoul had told his family he had been traveling in Afghanistan when he was captured and was in "the wrong place at the wrong time."
After being detained by U.S. forces, he contacted his family in March 2002 to say he was being held in Kandahar.
When the men were not all immediately released upon their return to Britain, their supporters said they deserved liberty after up to two years of detention without charge or access to lawyers.
"My wife has been crying for the last 18 months and I am angry," Riasoth Ahmed, the father of prisoner Ruhal Ahmed, told reporters outside his home in Tipton, central England. "For 18 months, I have been saying he is not a terrorist. ... They should let him go free."
Police said they were coordinating arrangements for all the freed men to be taken to the place of their choice.
A spokesman for the families of Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul — friends from Tipton who reportedly traveled to Pakistan in 2001 — had said earlier that the three had made brief calls to their relatives after arriving in Britain.
"It was just discussed that they are OK, the families have told them that they are now in the care of British authorities and they don't have anything to worry about ... and just to share the fact that they should cooperate with their solicitors," said the spokesman, who declined to be identified.
None of the suspects have been charged with a crime. The U.S. government says the roughly 640 prisoners held at Guantanamo are there because of suspicions they have links to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban (search) regime or the Al Qaeda (search) terror network. Families of the five returnees have said they were mistakenly caught up in the U.S. war on terrorism.
Four Britons remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, and Britain and the United States will continue discussions on what to do with them. Britain has insisted its nationals at the camp either receive fair trials or be returned home.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search) government has emphasized that the returned men had to be handled carefully because they could pose a security risk, but prosecutors, not Blair's ministers, had the decision whether to press charges.
Gareth Peirce, a lawyer for Iqbal and Rasul, criticized British police for their treatment of the detainees, saying officers made her sleep-deprived clients undergo fingerprinting procedures for too long and kept them in cold cells.
"We told the police that they are simply compounding the unlawfulness of the last two years," Peirce said.
Robert Lizar, the lawyer for al-Harith, who was released Tuesday at the air base, said his client wanted the U.S. authorities "to answer for the injustice which he has suffered."
"He has been detained as an innocent person for a period of two years. He has been treated in a cruel, inhumane and degrading manner, he wants the authorities to answer for that," Lizar added.