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Gitmo relatives slam governments

This image of detainees was released by the U.S. in 2002.
This image of detainees was released by the U.S. in 2002.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Families of British and French prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay have criticized their governments over the handling of the detainees.

Nine Britons and six Frenchmen are among the 660 people who have been held at the U.S. naval base on Cuba for more than two years without being charged or having access to legal assistance.

Most of the detainees, who are considered terrorism suspects by Washington, were captured during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The U.S. government has been interrogating the detainees and deciding whether they will face military tribunals or be released.

On Tuesday relatives of the detainees joined forces with actors Vanessa and Corin Redgrave and lawyers to launch the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission.

The group plans to send representatives to Washington -- supported by the American Civil Liberties Union -- to urge U.S. President George W. Bush to return the British and French detainees.

Rumors the detainees might have been released before Christmas proved unfounded, dashing the hopes of relatives.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair recently said he expected the detainees' legal status to be clarified within weeks but warned they would not be allowed back to Britain if they posed a terror risk.

Azmat Begg, whose son Moazzam is being held in Guantanamo Bay, described the "disappointment" he felt after a recent meeting with the UK Foreign Office.

"I am very sorry to say that we have been to the Foreign Office but the response we got was very unacceptable," he told the UK Press Association.

"I came out very disappointed, full of loss. My son has no human rights -- nothing."

Azmat Begg, a retired bank manager from the central English city of Birmingham, said he had not heard from his son for six months.

The families of the six French prisoners being held say they have had no assistance from their government.

Hassine Ounsi, the French Guantanamo Bay prisoners' representative, told CNN: "So far the French government has done nothing.

"When we go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials tell us that different delegations go to Guantanamo and meet the prisoners, but no concrete action, (no) decision has been taken."

Human rights watchdog group Amnesty International has accused the United States of depriving the detainees of basic human rights. The accusations are disputed by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Amnesty says the U.S. government has arbitrarily imprisoned the detainees. Other violations the group has listed include prolonged solitary confinement, heavy shackling and lack of adequate exercise.

There have been reports of several suicide attempts by Guantanamo detainees.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two legal appeals over whether the detainees are being held unlawfully. It would be the first time the justices review the constitutionality of the White House's war on terror laws that followed the September 11 attacks.

The court will hear arguments sometime early this year, with a ruling expected by June. (Full story)

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