Ghana: President Mahama defends presence of 2 former Guantanamo detainees

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - Ghana's president John Dramani Mahama on Tuesday defended his government's decision to receive two detainees from Guantanamo Bay, saying they are not at risk to the population as many religious organisations, opposition political parties and civil society groups fear.

"They were the most compliant and were put in the lowest category of risk," he told a press conference in Accra in his first comments since the two Yemenis arrived in Ghana late last week.

The two former Guantanamo Bay detainees, whose arrival has kicked up a huge storm of anger, have said that they are not in the country for revenge.

Mahmoud Omar Mohammed bin Atef, 36, and Khalid Shayk Mohammed, 34, both from Yemen, denied they belong to terrorist groups.

President Mahama said Ghana was not the only country that accepted former detainees from Guantanamo Bay, citing Cape Verde, Uganda, Estonia and Uruguay as some countries which have also received former detainees earlier.

He repeated that the request came from the US and a lot of work was done to ensure that they posed no danger to the citizens.

"There were extensive considerations and risk assessment... There is no monetary consideration. If there was any, the US itself should have disclosed that... We've been allies with the US for a long time and we'll continue to cooperate on security issues and on training."

President Mahama said: "As Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, the safety and security of the people are of great concern to me. I'll not take any decision that will put the security of Ghanaians at risk."

He said the public had nothing to fear from the two men who were living in a national security compound. The bigger risk are those who are being radicalised on line and those who will come in with a different agenda.

"What we need is advance information on who is coming into Ghana and collaboration with the country that has the largest base of information of security risks (US) makes us even safer," President Mahama said.

He urged his countrymen to look at it from compassionate grounds, saying the two men should be given a chance to restart their lives after they spent 14 years in Guantanamo Bay without being charged with any offence.

The president said his government would continue to engage Christian organisations to touch their divine hearts.

The state-owned Graphic on Tuesday quoted the two men as saying they were illegally and unjustifiably detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay for several years, and their priority now is to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully and to get their lives back on track.

“We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us. We have suffered but we are not looking for revenge. We want to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully. And we want to put our lives together,” they said.

They thanked Ghana for receiving them, describing Ghanaians as nice and hospitable people.

“We are very happy for the warm reception that Ghana is known for; Ghanaians are very good people. We are very excited to come to Ghana because we know some of the things about Ghana.

“We are not part of any group, for example Al-Qaeda or other things; we don’t belong to any part of them. We are healed, we want to leave very normal lives. Allah bless you and the people of Ghana,” they said.

Three major Christian groups — the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference (GCGC), the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) — have asked the government to demonstrate that it is a listening government by sending the two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to where they came from.

In separate statements, the three groups said the fears and lamentations being expressed by Ghanaians over the presence of the two men in Ghana are legitimate, as they pose a real threat to the country.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 12Jan2016

12 january 2016 14:34:36

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