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Australia OKs Rules for Terror Trials

November 26, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Australian government said Tuesday that it is satisfied that its citizens can get fair trials before the military tribunals the United States created for terrorism suspects.

After months of negotiations, the U.S. and Australia have agreed to changes in tribunal rules that they believe will provide fair and open trials without compromising national security.

About 660 prisoners, many captured during the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, have been held without charges or legal representation while U.S. authorities interrogated them.

President Bush promised in July that tribunals for Australian or British citizens held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be suspended until the completion of negotiations with allies on the rules that govern the proceedings. Talks with the British continue.

The United States has agreed that Australian lawyers who pass security clearances could have direct contact with defendants rather than just be consultants to U.S. defense teams, as envisioned in the original tribunal plans.

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