Pentagon sets first review of Guantanamo prisoner

Friday, July 30th 2004, 12:13 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. military said Friday that it had scheduled the first hearing into whether a terror suspect at a Navy base in Cuba is being properly held.

The hearing for the unidentified prisoner was set for Friday afternoon at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Navy Secretary Gordon England said at the Pentagon. It was the first time one of the 590 Guantanamo Bay prisoners would be able to make a formal case for his freedom.

A panel of military officers will decide whether he is indeed an ``enemy combatant,'' as the military contends, or wrongly held and therefore should be set free.

The prisoner will have no lawyer with him _ only a personal representative supplied by the military.

The review, and those that England promised will follow for other foreign-born detainees, is a result of the Supreme Court's ruling last month that gave new legal rights to the Guantanamo prisoners.

The Supreme Court said Guantanamo prisoners have a right to challenge their detention in civilian U.S. courts, and the military set up the review tribunals as a first step in determining the prisoners' fate.

The Pentagon said the tribunals will provide more information that lawyers could then use in court.

England said all the prisoners at Guantanamo will probably get reviews during the next four months. Each prisoner's case will be reviewed whether the prisoner takes part in the process or not, he said.

The review process is one of several surrounding the detainees, whom many human rights organizations contend are unlawfully held.

Separate annual administrative reviews, aimed at determining whether a prisoner is still a threat, will begin in a few weeks, England said. Some of the prisoners at Guantanamo have been held there for more than two-and-a-half years.

The military also plans to hold preliminary hearings in court for four Guantanamo prisoners who have been charged with specific crimes, beginning late August, military officials said.

David Hicks, a former Australian cowboy who allegedly fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, is charged with war crimes conspiracy, aiding the enemy, and attempted murder for being an ``illegal combatant.''

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni, faces conspiracy to attack civilians, to murder and to commit terrorism.

Also charged with terrorism-related offenses are Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan. None are accused of killing Americans.

Another 11 people at Guantanamo Bay have been considered potential defendants for military tribunals, but they have not been identified or charged.

The Navy's base at Guantanamo has served as the military's most visible prison for terrorism suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.