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Rights group seeks military commissions stay for alleged 9/11 attackers

[JURIST] Human Rights First [advocacy website] Monday filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] requesting a stay of military commission proceedings [press release] against five Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report], until President-elect Barack Obama [transition website] takes office in January. The group filed the brief to stay the proceedings after Mohammed and the other defendants said they wanted to withdraw all motions and plead guilty [JURIST report] earlier this month. The suspects postponed their offers to plead guilty [JURIST report] to the charges against them after the judge required competency hearings for two of them, but Human Rights First says that prosecutors continue to push the case forward and are likely to seek another hearing before Obama's inauguration. The brief argues that because Obama has pledged to close the Guantanamo military prison and end the military commissions system, "there is no legitimate reason to expend judicial resources prosecuting a capital case under a system that will be obsolete before the matter can be tried."

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] ordered the Pentagon to draft a proposal for shutting down [press release; JURIST report] the military prison in preparation for a possible order from Obama. Rights groups have urged Obama to close the controversial military prison upon inauguration in January. Last month, the ACLU launched an ad campaign [image, PDF] calling on Obama to close Guantanamo Bay and end the use of military commissions on his first day in office. Also in November, HRW called upon Obama to denounce Bush administration counterterrorism policies [JURIST report] that they described as "abusive." Obama and his advisers have yet to reach a firm decision [JURIST report] on the closure of the facility and the future of the military commissions system.

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