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U.S. Supreme Court allows foreign prisoners in Guantanamo to appeal

12-06-2008

WASHINGTON, (Xinhua): U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that foreign terrorism prisoners held in U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba, can challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

In response, the White House said that President George W. Bush, who is currently in his visit to Europe, has expressed strong disagreement with the Supreme Court ruling for not keeping American people safe, but he said he would abide by the decision.

"It was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented," Bush said in Rome. "And that dissent was based upon their serious concerns about U.S. national security."

He also said that his administration would study the ruling to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate "so we can safely say to the American people," according to the White House.

For his part, the Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, who is attending a NATO conference in Brussels, Belgium, said that the defense department was examining the implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

"Obviously we're going to have to take a look at it. And see what the implications are. But the ruling of the court is the law of the land. And we will have to look at what the implications are for us," he said.

By voting 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that the Guantanamo Bay foreign prisoners "have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus" to challenge their detention before U.S. federal judges.

"We hold these petitioners do have the habeas corpus privilege," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court majority in the 70-page opinion. "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

The liberal-dominated justices found that the Navy base, in fact, was operating as if it were on U.S. soil, so its detainees deserved the same constitutional rights as all other Americans.

The Thursday's ruling was the third blow to Bush's "war on terrorism" policies. The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 and again in 2006 that Guantanamo detainees had a statutory -- legal but not constitutional -- right to contest their indefinite detention before an independent judge.

But Bush administration still pushed through the Republican-dominated Congress in 2006 a law that only allowed for a limited review by a U.S. appeals court in Washington of the military's designation of the prisoners as an "enemy combatant," but took away the habeas corpus rights from the terrorism suspects to seek full judicial review of their detention.

However, Kennedy said that Congress did not create an adequate alternative for Guantanamo prisoners to contest their detention.

On the other hand, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the Thursday his colleagues who voted for the ruling for striking down "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

Another dissenter, Justice Samuel Alito said that the ruling would make the "war with radical Islamists" harder for Americans and cause more Americans to be killed.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, despite the fact that hundreds who have been released to various countries from Guantanamo that was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there are still 275 remaining in the prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al Qaida and the Taliban, some of whom have been held more than 6 years.

In addition to those held without charges, the United States has said it plans to try as many as 80 of the detainees in war crimes tribunals.

The prison was also strongly criticized at home and abroad for U.S. military and intelligence officials' harsh interrogation tactics conducted there.

Bush has said that he would like to close the facility once other countries are willing to take the prisoners, which was also supported by Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his Democratic rival Barack Obama.

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