The Methodist Church in Britain has welcomed the UK Government’s decision to request the return of five former British residents being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp at the US military base on the island of Cuba.
The announcement overturns the previous refusal of the UK Government to intervene in their case - even though two of the men each have five children with British citizenship rights, and the others have strong ties to the country.
Britain's major Christian denominations are among those who have been pressurising on the issue for some time.
The Methodist Church declares itself "gravely concerned about the continued use of Guantanamo Bay to hold people without due legal process."
At the beginning of July, the Methodist Church, the Church of England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales wrote to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, urging her to allow the return to the UK of eight former British residents detained at Guantanamo Bay including those named in this week's statement from the Government.
The letter was signed by the Rev Graham Carter (the former President of the Methodist Conference), the Rt Rev Tom Butler (Anglican Bishop of Southwark) and the Rt Rev William Kenney (Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Birmingham).
Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs, said yesterday: “This is great news and we hope that these five people can be returned to the UK soon. Most of the British residents detained at Guantanamo have been there for five years now and we are concerned for their mental health and general well-being."
He continued: "Their continued detention has placed stress on their families in the UK. Their imprisonment without due legal process is an unacceptable violation of their rights."
“We continue to be deeply concerned about Guantanamo Bay and would like to see it closed. We appreciate the need for adequate security measures but these must not violate fundamental human rights”, concluded Mr Hucklesby.
The US is under strong international pressure to shut down the Guantanamo detention centre and either release or bring before a recognised court those detained there.