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Eu opposes death sentence

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EU Against Death Penalty for U.S. Terror Suspects
Fri Jul 4, 8:05 AM ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission (news - web sites) urged the United States on Friday to avoid applying the death penalty to six foreign captives designated by President Bush (news - web sites) to be tried before U.S. military commissions.

The 15-nation bloc is a fierce opponent of capital punishment and the EU's executive Commission said use of the death penalty could undermine international support for the so-called U.S.-led war on terrorism.

"The death sentence cannot be applied by military courts as this would make the international coalition lose the integrity and credibility it has so far enjoyed," said Commission spokesman Diego de Ojeda, recalling comments by External Relations chief Chris Patten.

U.S. officials have refused to name the six individuals, but they are believed to be among the more than 600 prisoners imprisoned at the U.S. naval base "Camp X-Ray" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Any trials are set to be held there.

U.S. officials have said there is evidence the six attended "terrorist" training camps and may have been involved in financing Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network, providing protection for bin Laden and recruiting future members.

Saudi-born Bin Laden's network is blamed by the United States for the September 11, 2001 hijack attacks in the United States which killed more than 3,000 people.

Charges set out in the Pentagon (news - web sites)'s instructions could bring the death penalty against the six.

Bush issued an order authorizing military commission trials in November 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Human rights groups have said the rules for the trials set by the Pentagon are biased toward the prosecution, place unacceptable conditions on the defense and allow for no independent judicial review by civilian courts.

"Our position clearly remains that the fight against terrorism should not give rise to a violation of human rights," de Ojeda told a news conference.

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