German authorities have opened the way for the possible return of a Turk being held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military jail for terror suspects, officials said Thursday. The government has lifted an order banning Murat Kurnaz from entering Germany and other EU states, the Interior Ministry said. Meanwhile, the northern city of Bremen confirmed the 23-year-old's residence permit remained valid.
"Apart from illegal detention in Guantanamo, nothing else stands in the way of entry into Germany," said Kurnaz's German lawyer, Bernhard Docke.
A German government spokesman had no immediate comment on whether Kurnaz might be released soon.
Kurnaz, who was born in Germany but holds Turkish citizenship, traveled in October 2001 to Pakistan, where he was arrested. He has been held at Guantanamo since the military jail opened in January 2002. Lawyers were first able to visit him in 2004.
His attorneys have expressed hope that Chancellor Angela Merkel, who discussed Guantanamo with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington last week, can help secure his freedom. Merkel has suggested that the U.S. jail on the eastern tip of Cuba should be closed.
The German Interior Ministry ordered Kurnaz barred from Germany and other signatories to the EU's Schengen open-borders agreement in 2004 as a possible security threat.
Officials decided on Wednesday to lift the ban in the light of his family ties to Germany and his long detention in Guantanamo, a ministry spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity.
Immigration authorities in Bremen said Thursday that they accepted a recent court ruling Kurnaz's residence permit had not expired. City officials had tried to cancel it because he didn't apply for an extension, reports the AP.