US lets key terrorism suspects request lawyers -paper

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WASHINGTON, Sep 28 (Reuters) Fourteen ''high-value'' terrorism suspects who were transferred last year to the US military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, from secret CIA prisons have been given legal forms to request lawyers, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The move could allow the prisoners, including the alleged mastermind of the September. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to join other detainees in challenging their status as enemy combatants in a US appellate court, the report said.

The prisoners have not had access to lawyers during their year at Guantanamo Bay or while they were held at the secret CIA sites abroad, the newspaper said.

The Post said Defense Department officials confirmed the move, which could lead to the suspects' first contact with anyone other than their captors or representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The detainees received ''Legal Representation Request'' forms during the last week of August and the first week of September, the report said. At least four detainees have requested attorneys, the Post reported, citing sources familiar with the process.

A Pentagon spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The newspaper quoted a Pentagon spokesman as saying this week that the detainees, like all others at Guantanamo, are provided information on how to request counsel.

The spokesman said the counsel will be permitted to visit the detainee once the counsel gets a security clearance and agrees to special court rules, the paper said.

The Post said one Pentagon official warned that those lawyers will have to undergo especially thorough background checks before they are allowed to see the high-value captives.

The United States holds 340 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, set up to handle prisoners captured by the United States after the September.

11 attacks.

REUTERS SG PM1040

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