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Guantanamo reforms in defense budget: US lawmaker

world Updated: Jun 26, 2009 12:00 IST

The 550.4-billion-dollar defense budget approved by US senators on Thursday includes a plan to reform the controversial military tribunal process at Guantanamo Bay, the Armed Services Committee chairman said.

“Those commissions... and their procedures have got to be changed to ensure that they are consistent with American principles of justice,” said Democratic Senator Carl Levin.

“The use of coerced testimony, we have put in our bill, it is not going to be admissible,” Levin said in comments to the media.

Levin, who spoke alongside the committee’s senior Republican Senator John McCain, said the changes would address how classified evidence can be used.

The issue of providing detainees with access to “exculpatory evidence” will also be dealt with, the senator said.

Levin said he had worked “very closely” with the White House, as well as McCain and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the plan.

President Barack Obama decided last month to keep the military commission system set up by former president George W Bush to prosecute detainees at Guantanamo, although he pledged reforms would be made to the system.

One of Obama’s first acts after taking office in January was to order a fourth-month suspension of the commissions process, which was established in 2006.

The halt in proceedings was intended to give the administration time to assess its options after Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo prison camp for “war on terror” detainees by January 2010.

The defense budget approved by the committee must still be approved by the Senate as a whole.