April 3, 2009 in Nation/World

Judge says more detainees can make case in court

Los Angeles Times
 

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay grew more complicated Thursday, after a federal judge ruled that at least some of the long-term prisoners at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan are entitled to the same legal rights as the Guantanamo detainees.

U.S. District Judge John Bates said the prisoners who were shipped to Bagram from outside Afghanistan are “virtually identical” in legal terms to those who were sent to Guantanamo.

Therefore, these prisoners have the right to challenge their detention before a judge, Bates said. He cited the Supreme Court’s decision last year holding that the right to “habeas corpus” extended to the Guantanamo prison, and concluded there was no reason not to extend the same legal status to those held at the military prison in Afghanistan.

Lawyers for the Bush and Obama administrations argued that Afghanistan was different because it is in the “theater of war” and near the battlefield. Traditionally, the right to habeas corpus did not apply on the battlefield or in combat areas.

But Bates said that many of the Bagram prisoners were shipped there from other countries. They were not fighters who were captured in Afghanistan.


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