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Not entitled hearing { March 12 2003 }

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Detainees not entitled to a hearing
Guantanamo prisoners have no Constitutional rights, court rules
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback


Hundreds of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters detained by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base cannot challenge their imprisonment in court and are not entitled to any other Constitutional rights, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., means 650 individuals captured by the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks can be detained indefinitely because they are foreigners imprisoned outside U.S. territory.

The ruling was a major victory for the Bush administration in its assertion of broad power over detainees in the war on terrorism.

"In times of war, the president must be able to protect our nation from enemies who seek to harm innocent Americans," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement praising the ruling.

Civil liberties lawyers were dismayed.

The court seemed to endorse the administration's view that "Guantanamo is the legal equivalent of outer space," said Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

The ruling "gives a green light to United States officials to imprison foreigners outside the rule of law," said Thomas Wilner and Kristine Huskey, lawyers for 12 of the plaintiffs, Kuwaitis held at Guantanamo for more than a year.

"We are all foreigners outside our borders," they said. "This decision endangers every United States citizen who travels abroad."

Prisoners from 43 nations, captured in Afghanistan, are being held under military custody in Guantanamo, a U.S. base leased from Cuba a century ago. U. S. authorities say they were all affiliated with the Al Qaeda terror network or with Afghanistan's former Taliban regime.

Rather than classifying them as prisoners of war -- a status that would entitle them to release at the end of the war -- the administration considers them "enemy combatants" who can be detained indefinitely for questioning without charges. Military officials insist they are being held humanely and have allowed visits by the International Red Cross but no access by lawyers or relatives.

The court case was filed by families of 12 Kuwaitis, two Australians and two Britons, all of whom deny any connection to terrorism and any violent acts against Americans.

In ruling that U.S. courts could not consider the legality of their detention, the three-judge appeals panel relied on a 1950 Supreme Court dismissal of an appeal by 21 Germans who were imprisoned at a U.S. base in Germany after World War II.

The high court said the prisoners, convicted of war crimes by a military tribunal, had no constitutional right to take their case to a U.S. civilian court because they were held outside U.S. territory.

Although the Guantanamo prisoners may not all be enemies of the United States, the Supreme Court ruling demonstrates that "constitutional rights . . .

are not held by aliens outside the sovereign territory of the United States, regardless of whether they are enemy aliens," the court said.

The court said Guantanamo, though controlled by the U.S. military, was under Cuban sovereignty and thus beyond the jurisdiction.

That was disputed by Erwin Chemerinsky, a University of Southern California law professor who unsuccessfully argued an earlier Guantanamo case.

"If Cuba were to decide they wanted to liberate the prisoners at Guantanamo,

surely they couldn't do it," he said. "This is U.S. territory."

The ruling comes two months after another federal appeals court, in Richmond, Va., upheld the indefinite detention of Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The court said President Bush had the wartime authority to declare Hamdi an enemy combatant and deny him access to a lawyer.

By contrast, a federal judge in New York reaffirmed on Tuesday his ruling of last December that allows terror suspect Jose Padilla, also a U.S. citizen, to see a lawyer while challenging his detention. Padilla was arrested in Chicago last May on suspicion of plotting with Al Qaeda to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States, but has not been charged with any crime and is in military custody.

An appeal is expected from the Bush administration, which contends military interrogation would be disrupted if suspects like Padilla were allowed to consult lawyers.

Hamdi's appeal is due at the Supreme Court next month. The court has not yet agreed to review any cases involving the government's powers after Sept. 11, 2001.

2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback

Page A - 3

19 detainees freed { March 24 2003 }
375 detainees at guantanamo not yet charged { April 3 2007 }
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Amnesty report calls gitmo gulag of our time { May 25 2005 }
AP observes guantanamo detention center
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Cia runs prison within prison { December 17 2004 }
Commander relieved { October 14 2002 }
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Denies detainees court { August 1 2002 }
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Detainees have some powerful friends { November 14 2003 }
Detainees innocent { December 22 2002 }
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Enemy combantant { August 14 2002 }
Executions may be carried out at guantanamo { January 25 2006 }
Fair gitmo judge is replaced by military { May 31 2008 }
Family finds guantanamo suspect since 1996 { February 25 2004 }
Gauntanamo eyes execution chamber { June 10 2003 }
Gitmo detainees of little security value { June 21 2004 }
Gitmo released then is suicide bomber { May 7 2008 }
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Guantanamo laywers fired { December 3 2003 }
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Lawyers for 13 detainees at guantamo bay challenge detentions { July 3 2004 }
Liberty guantanamo { October 24 2002 }
Loses appeal against due process { March 12 2003 }
Not entitled hearing { March 12 2003 }
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Pentagon wants permanent guantanamo
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Ruling stalls prosecution of detainee
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Senate strips guantanmo detainees right to sue { November 11 2005 }
Sole spanish prisoner held guantanamo released to spain { February 14 2004 }
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Supreme court hear case detainees guantanamo { November 10 2003 }
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