Hasan Aribi, who chairs his country’s committee on the Guantanamo question, has negotiated the release of 18 detainees from the heavily-guarded detention camp at the eastern tip of Cuba.

He claimed that the freed detainees told him that some of their American guards had converted to Islam as a result of daily interaction with Muslim prisoners for the past two years.

The US military refused to comment when contacted by Aljazeera.net on Tuesday.

Release of prisoner

Aribi made his claims at a seminar in Egypt recently which was covered by Islam Online.

Speaking to the Cairo seminar, he said his negotiations, held in Washington before the Iraq war, resulted in the release of eight Algerians and ten other detainees.

"They told me that the American guards were very sympathetic with them to the extent of buying the detainees’ needs (with) their pocket money," Aribi said.

Aribi appealed to other Arab governments to act immediately for the release of their citizens, held without charges in Guantanamo.

He said 90% of those held had "no relation whatsoever with al-Qaida or Taliban. They were working with humanitarian relief agencies and were only arrested as part of an American campaign against possible suspects."

The detainees are being held outside US legal jurisdiction

A New York representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said he had also heard reports of US guards converting to Islam in Guantanamo.

Arrests

No comment was immediately available from the camp. US military officials have imposed stricter reporting limits since the arrests of a Muslim army chaplain and two interpreters.

The arrests involved civilian interpreter Ahmad Mihalba, a naturalised US citizen from Egypt, allegedly found with classified documents from Guantanamo and Air Force Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, an interpreter accused of espionage for allegedly sending classified information about the camp to an unspecified "enemy."

Army Capt James Yee, a Muslim chaplain, has been charged with disobeying orders. He is accused of leaving the base with a layout of the prison block.

All three say they are innocent.

Red Cross speaks out

The International Committee of the Red Cross has complained on Friday that the camp denies prisoners basic rights and is leading to mental health problems among them.

"We've witnessed growing anxiety and a rather serious deterioration in the psychological health of the detainees, linked very much, we believe, to their ongoing uncertainty," said Amanda Williamson of the ICRC's office in Washington.

The public protest is highly unusual for the ICRC, which traditionally raises concerns about such conditions privately.