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Lack of Detainee Hearings Under Fire

May 14, 2003|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge in Los Angeles lambasted the Bush administration Tuesday for failing to make good on its promise to hold military tribunals for more than 600 war-on-terror detainees being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz's criticism came in a written opinion rejecting a habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of Falen Gherebi, a 45-year-old Libyan who has been held prisoner by U.S. authorities for more than a year.

The petition asked that Gherebi be given access to a lawyer and granted a hearing on his status before a federal judge.

Citing an earlier ruling he issued in a related case, Matz said prisoners at Guantanamo are not entitled to seek relief in U.S. courts because the Guantanamo naval base is not under American sovereignty. The base is held under a century-old lease with Cuba.

"The court reaches this conclusion reluctantly, however," Matz wrote in a 15-page opinion.

Matz, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton in 1998, quoted from a Defense Department order promising that military commissions would be impaneled to try those held captive.

"Not one military tribunal has actually been convened," Matz wrote. He said delay in carrying out the promised tribunals is inconsistent with basic values of the American legal system

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