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Constitutional Law

Obama Seeks 120-Day Trial Delay in All Gitmo Cases, Plans to Close Prison

Posted Jan 21, 2009 2:41 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In his one of his first acts in office yesterday, President Barack Obama instructed prosecutors to seek 120-day delays in all cases now before U.S. military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba while his administration evaluates the situation. Meanwhile, his aides are working on an executive order that would close the American naval base detention facility there within a year.

In response today a U.S. military judge "suspended the trial of five detainees accused of involvement in plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, acceding to a request from military prosecutors in accordance with a directive from the new Obama administration late Tuesday," recounts the Washington Post.

Four of the five defendants, including avowed attack mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed objected to the pause in the proceedings, notes a Bloomberg article on the 120-day delay, even though the Obama administration's new direction is expected to benefit their cases, according to tribunal filings by military prosecutors.

The new Obama administration policy has also resulted in a delay in the controversial murder trial of Omar Ahmed Khadr. A Canadian citizen, he has been held by the U.S. since he was 15, after being captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade in what has been described as a battlefield situation there.

"The suspension had been expected because, as a candidate, Mr. Obama described the military commissions as a failure and suggested that he may decide to prosecute detainees in existing courts," reports the New York Times. "The military commissions have been criticized as lacking in the basic protections of the American justice system and have been plagued by legal and practical difficulties since the Bush administration first announced its plan for prosecution in the months after the 2001 attacks."

Related coverage:

Miami Herald: "Obama moves on Guantanamo vow, seeks to delay trials"

Washington Post (Nov. 2008): "Guantanamo Closure Called Obama Priority"

Islam Online (Qatar): "Obama Halts Gitmo Trial, World Welcomes"

Miami Herald: "Family of 9/11 victims voice anger at delay in proceedings"

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