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Guantanamo prosecutors seek delays in pending trials

[JURIST] Military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday sought to delay the trials of three suspected terrorists while the US government revises the military commission [JURIST news archive] system used to try them. At the second day of hearings held at the detention facility since US President Barack Obama [official website] took office, judges granted a government request to postpone proceedings in the case of accused al-Qaeda member Mohammed Kamin, but did not rule on similar motions in the cases of Omar Khadr and Ibrahim Ahmed al Qosi [DOD materials]. Military prosecutors said that, since changes made to the military commissions structure may invalidate the current proceedings [Reuters report] or require rehearing on specific issues, the court should stay the cases until the revisions are complete. Defense counsel for the detainees said that the delays would violate American legal principles by endorsing indefinite detention. Commander Suzanne Lachelier, defense counsel for alleged 9-11 co-conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh [DOD materials], predicted [Bloomberg report] that no more full trials would be completed at Guantanamo before its closure in January 2010, due to the inefficiencies created by the rules of evidence and the systemic review. An anonymous US official said on Wednesday that more than 60 detainees [Bloomberg report] had been cleared by the US government for transfer to other countries.

Last week, a former Guantanamo prosecutor told the House Judiciary Committee [official website] that the military commission system is "broken beyond repair" [JURIST report]. Also last week, a former US Navy Judge Advocate General [official website] told the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF] should be repealed rather than reformed [JURIST report]. Last month, that committee approved [JURIST report] a version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 [S 1033 materials] that would reform the use of classified, coerced, and hearsay evidence and allow defendants greater access to exculpatory evidence. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] said that the changes were necessary for the military commissions to be considered "regularly constituted courts" within the meaning of the 2006 Supreme Court [official website] decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. In May, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he would use the controversial military commissions system to try some Guantanamo Bay detainees. The move drew criticism [JURIST report] from human rights groups, which called the plan "fatally flawed," continuing a long line of criticism of the commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In January, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable and no later than one year from the date of this order."

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