Constitutional Law

Fed'l Judge Threatens to Hold Gitmo Lawyers' Feet to Fire

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., who is hearing appeals from 200 terrorism detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba told lawyers for both sides yesterday that the cases must be handled as quickly as possible.

But that won’t be as easy as the detainees, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan and counsel for both sides might wish, reports the McClatchy News Service.

Although Hogan told lawyers for both sides he would hold their “feet to the fire” if they didn’t pull out the stops to move the detainees’ cases as quickly as possible, he and counsel are still figuring out how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Boumediene v. Bush should be implemented procedurally. In it, the court held that suspects detained as “enemy combatants” in terrorism cases still have constitutional rights, including the right to petition for habeas corpus relief.

Over the six years that the Gitmo military prison has been open, it has housed some 750 detainees deemed to be enemy combatants. More than 500 have been released, and of the 265 who are still being held, only 20 have been charged with war crimes, the news service reports.

While Bush administration officials say they want to close the Guantanamo facility, they also “say they’re ‘stuck’ with dozens of detainees who cannot be released because their native countries have refused to accept them back,” writes a McClatchy reporter in Washington. “In many cases, the detainees’ lawyers have demanded the government convince another nation to take them because of fears their clients would be tortured in their native counties.”

Meanwhile, although the Justice Department has increased its pre-Boumediene staff of lawyers working on Gitmo cases from four to 50, that still may not be enough, Hogan says.

”We have to have a prompt resolution to these matters,” Hogan told DOJ lawyers yesterday. “The Supreme Court has spoken.”

Additional and related coverage:

Associated Press: “Judge to Bush admin.: Guantanamo is top priority”

Reuters: “Judge warns against delay for Guantanamo cases” ” ‘Enemy Combatant’ Opinion Released: Verifiable, Reliable Evidence Required”

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