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Guantanamo's spin on justice proceeds at snail's pace

world Updated: Jul 12, 2010 12:42 IST

PTI
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Showing up for a hearing at the US military court here is an ordeal for the detainees and a logistical burden for the American military, which has to transport the terror suspects from the detention facility to 'Camp Justice' inside the US Naval base in Cuba.

High-profile detainees like Ibrahim al Qosi, accused of helping al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, are brought to the court house shackled, wearing earmuffs and blacked out sun glasses for the hearings which are proceeding at snail's pace.

According to this PTI correspondent who recently visited the infamous detention centre, the small holding room where suspects are kept before the trial has a toilet, a chair with chains grounded to the floor and an arrow pointing to Mecca -- if the prisoner wants to pray.

From 2002 to 2008, a total of 779 detainees have passed through Guantanamo Bay detention centre set up by previous Bush administration to try the al-Qaeda terror suspects after 9/11 attacks.

US President Barack Obama, however, wants to shut down the detention facility which became notorious after it was revealed that the detainees there were abused and assaulted.

Last year, Obama signed an executive order to close down the detention facility by 2010 and transfer prisoners to jails in the US or in foreign countries.

The detention camp, however, remains open.

Besides al-Qaeda propagandist Ali Hamza al-Bahlul Ali of Yemen, Australian David Hicks who fought alongside the Taliban, Osama's Sudanese driver Ibrahim al Qosi, Salim Hamden from Yemen -- were also tried by the military commissions.

Al-Qaeda propagandist Ali was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008.

The guilt plea by al Qosi, accused of helping Osama escape from US forces in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan, led to the first conviction of a Guantanamo Bay detainee last week under the Obama administration.

But al Qosi, who pleaded guilty, is only the fourth man to be convicted since prisoners first came to Guantanamo in 2002.

In June, Noor Uthman Muhammed, another Sudanese accused of being the deputy commander of a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, skipped his hearing at Guantanamo Bay where the defence pleaded with the judge to appoint a psychologist to examine the mental state of the defendant.

A pre-trial hearing for Noor, at the end of June, lasted for approximately an hour and the next court session was scheduled for September.

Military Judge Captain Moira Modzelewski from the US Navy remarked that it would take her several months to read the paperwork on the case.