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EU welcomes Obama decision to suspend Guantanamo trials

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 08:08 IST

EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot on Wednesday hailed the move by new US President Barack Obama to suspend military trials at the Guantanamo Bay camp.

"I am delighted that one of the first acts of President Obama has been to turn the page on this sad episode of Guantanamo prison," Barrot said in a statement.

"For me it is a very strong symbol. In a lawful state everyone must be afforded the right of defence," he added.

Obama ordered prosecutors to seek a suspension Wednesday of military trials at the Guantanamo "war on terror" prison camp in one of his first acts as new US president.

Obama has vowed to close the prison on a US naval base in Cuba, which has become a symbol of US excesses around the world.

Military judges were to rule Wednesday on the motion, which would affect the trials of five alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the case of the last Westerner held at the camp, for allegedly killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.

Commissioner Barrot welcomed that "light can now be very rapidly shed on the situation of the prisoners in Guantanamo," who "must be allowed fair legal procedures to get to the truth of their actions."

He stressed that the fight against terrorism, "must be a main priority for the Untied States and Europe... but always with total respect for human rights."

Barrot said he would travel to the United States "soon" to discuss the matter with the new US administration which took office on Tuesday.

Established in early 2002 following the US-led offensive in Afghanistan, the Guantanamo detention centre was designed to hold suspected terrorists.

Obama's attorney general designate Eric Holder said this month that the Obama team was already taking steps to prepare to close the prison. The military commissions did not provide enough legal protections to the defendants, he added, arguing they could be tried in regular US courts.