Detainees' lawyer hails Guantanamo court ruling
LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) Today's US Supreme Court ruling rejecting military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay is a victory for detainees who have sought one thing all along: a fair trial, said a lawyer for 36 of the detainees.
The court ruled 5-3 that the first tribunal, against Osama bin Laden's driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan, could not proceed because it would violate the Geneva Conventions that govern treatment of prisoners of war.
US President George W Bush set up the tribunals, or ''military commissions'', to try inmates at the prison camp in Cuba, without many of the protections guaranteed by normal civilian or military courts.
''I think its a fantastic victory for us,'' lawyer Zachary Katznelson told Reuters in London.
''It's a strong rebuke from the Supreme Court to President Bush.
They clearly have said he is not above the law and that the men at Guantanamo absolutely have rights, and the military commissions are just blatantly illegal.'' Katznelson is part of a British firm that represents 36 Guantanamo detainees, including Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopean who is one of 10 men charged to appear before the commissions.
He said Mohamed's case was a good example of why detainees and their lawyers had feared the military commissions, which would have been empowered to hear secret evidence and evidence obtained by torture inadmissible in a normal court.
Mohamed was picked up in Pakistan, sent first to Morocco for 18 months, then for five months to a US camp in Afghanistan and finally to Guantanamo Bay in 2004, Katznelson said.
While in Morocco, he confessed under torture to being a member of al Qaeda who sought to blow up buildings with natural gas, Katznelson said.
''For 18 months (in Morocco) he was tortured brutally including razor blades being taken to his genitals.'' ''In a regular criminal trial (his confession) would be thrown out in a second by the judge. Under military commission it would have been heard and considered as valid, which we know it's not.
''People just want the pain to stop. They'll say whatever their torturer wants.'' Katznelson said he looked forward to his next trip to Guantanamo, when he would be able to tell Mohamed the news of the Supreme Court ruling.
''He's going to have a huge smile on his face, because all he'd been asking for for the last several years is the right to a fair trial. And the Supreme Court has said that must be the case. And we are absolutely confident that we will win.'' Reuters SHR VV2210