Guantanamo hearings to start in August

Preliminary hearings in the first criminal cases against prisoners held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are expected to begin in August month, a senior defense official has said.

    Nearly 600 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo Bay

    The hearings would be the initial legal step in the first

    US military tribunal - formally called a military commission

    - since World War Two and would set the parameters for trial

    before a panel of five officers.

     

    "We  are making plans for the first preliminary hearings as

    early as late next month," said a senior defense official said on Thursday. 

     

    The Australian government said it expects US military

    court proceedings against Australian Guantanamo inmate David

    Hicks to start the week of August 23, according to Australian

    news reports.

     

    Hicks, 28, was charged in June with three counts:

    conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding

    the enemy.

     

    Three others prisoners also are facing criminal charges

    brought by the United States.

     

    Charges faced   

     

    Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen is charged with one count of

    conspiracy to commit murder, attacks on civilians and

    terrorism.

     

    The Pentagon said Hamdan provided security for al Qaeda

    leader Osama bin Laden and other top members of the network

    that carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United

    States.

     

    Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim

    Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan were charged in February with a

    single count each of conspiracy to commit war crimes.

       

    The United States holds at Guantanamo 594 foreign nationals

    detained in what US President George W. Bush calls the global

    war on terrorism.

     

    Most were captured in the US-led war in

    Afghanistan. Their imprisonment at the base began in January

    2002.

     

    Nearly all have been held without charges or access to

    lawyers. Human rights groups have charged that the rules for

    the tribunals are rigged to hamstring defense lawyers and

    produce convictions.

     

    The Pentagon has pledged "full and fair" trials. 

     

    Separate military panels were expected to begin as early as

    Friday reviewing, on an annual basis, whether or not to release

    each of the Guantanamo prisoners or continue holding them. 

     

    SOURCE: Reuters


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