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The Globe and Mail

Guantanamo prisoners tuned in for Obama-Romney debate

The sun rises over the U.S. detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay October 18, 2012 in this photo reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Michelle Shephard/Pool photo via REUTERS

A few dozen Guantanamo prisoners were among the millions who tuned in for the U.S. presidential debate on Monday night.

Two cellblocks watched on television as President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off in Boca Raton, Florida. Another cellblock followed a radio broadcast, a military spokeswoman said.

Detainees who follow camp rules are allowed to live in communal cellblocks and have access to satellite television.

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There was no word on who they rooted for, but they would have been disappointed if they were hoping to hear about their own situation.

Although the debate's focus was foreign policy, there was no mention of Obama's failed promise to shut down the detention camp at the U.S. Naval base in eastern Cuba, which still holds 166 captives and is seen as fuelling anti-U.S. sentiment around the world.

The facility's future is a touchy subject for Obama, who made a campaign promise to shut it down when he won the White House in 2008.

Civil liberties advocates say the indefinite detentions at the base are illegal or unjustified.

Obama's administration said when it first took office in 2009 that it planned to close the prison, and bring some of the most notorious militants held there, including alleged Sept. 11 conspirators, to trial in civilian courts.

But the plan sparked a political uproar and Congress approved legislation banning the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, or any other reason.

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