Obama Administration Moves To Suspend Gitmo Trials

Military judges on Wednesday will consider motions by the Obama administration to suspend the Guantanamo war crimes trials for 120 days during a review of the system for prosecuting suspected terrorists.

The motions, filed late Tuesday at the direction of President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will be heard in the cases of five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks and of Canadian Omar Khadr, who is accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan in 2002.

Obama has said he will close the military detention center in Cuba, where the U.S. holds about 245 men, and he had been expected to halt the widely criticized war-crimes trials created by former President George W. Bush and Congress in 2006.

The motions to suspend the trials came the day of Obama's inauguration. Before Obama was sworn in, a military judge adjourned the war crimes court until Wednesday, noting the future of the commissions was in doubt.

In the motion filed for the Sept. 11 case, U.S. military prosecutor Clay Trivett says a continuance is necessary in all pending cases because the review may result in significant changes to the system.

"The interests of justice served by granting the requested continuance outweigh the interests of both the public and the accused in a prompt trial," Trivett wrote.

The motion was written at the direction of the president and defense secretary, he said.

"It will permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration to undertake a thorough review of both the pending cases and the military commissions process generally," he added.

There are war crimes charges pending against 21 men being held at Guantanamo, including the five charged with murder and other crimes in the Sept. 11 case. Judges would be required to suspend the other cases as well, though hearings may not be necessary.

Eric Holder, the president's nominee for attorney general, has said the so-called military commissions lack sufficient legal protections for defendants and that they could be tried in the United States.

A human rights group at Guantanamo to observe this week's session of the war crimes court welcomed what appeared to be the looming end of the special tribunals.

"It's a great first step but it is only a first step," said Gabor Rona, international director of Human Rights First. "The suspension of military commissions so soon after President Obama took office is an indication of the sense of urgency he feels about reversing the destructive course that the previous administration was taking in fighting terrorism."

Jamil Dakwar, director of the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was a positive step but "the president's order leaves open the option of this discredited system remaining in existence."

Relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, who were also at the base to observe the hearings, have said they oppose any further delay in the trials of the men charged in the case.

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  • by Peeved Again on Jan 23, 2009 at 04:44 AM
    Last night at the 11 o'clock hour while reporting this story, your anchor said Mr. Obama. He is no longer Mr. Obama. He can be Mr. President or President Obama. Give the office respect.
  • by Dewey Behdwetter Location: Hooterville on Jan 21, 2009 at 07:28 AM
    the way we treated these people was so mean, I'm glad pres Obama is going to free them. I mean these are really some nice people when you get to know them.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Jan 21, 2009 at 03:48 AM
    The detainees should be turned over to the Chinese for detention and trial. I needn't say what kind of treatment they would receive. But, they would probably never be heard from again....
  • by imagine that Location: wherever on Jan 21, 2009 at 03:16 AM
    Suspending trials for terrorist because their rights might be violated? The rights OUR founding fathers instituted for OUR citizens? God help us all.

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