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US launches Guantanamo review

A formal review process for dozens of men being held at Guantanamo Bay without charge has begun as part of an effort to close the prison, the Pentagon said.

Officials from several government agencies, including the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, will re-evaluate previous determinations that some of the men held on the US base in Cuba are too dangerous to release, the Defence Department said in a statement.

The US has not yet said how many of the 164 prisoners now at Guantanamo will be reviewed. More than 80 have already been cleared for release or transfer but are still held either because of restrictions on releases imposed by Congress or because they are from Yemen, which is considered too unstable to take former prisoners.

The government previously said that about 46 prisoners are being held in indefinite detention under international law. That generally means they can be detained until hostilities end, a vague deadline that has been challenged by human rights groups who have called for the men to be released. Those receiving a review would include this group.

Under the new Periodic Review Board process, the government will review the case files of the men and determine if circumstances have changed and they can be released.

The men will be represented at a hearing by a military officer but can also hire a lawyer as well. They will be entitled to a new in-person review every three years, the government said.

President Barack Obama vowed to close the prison upon taking office but was thwarted by Congress, which imposed restrictions on releasing or transferring prisoners off the base.

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