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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

U.S. "preparing to detain terror suspects for life without trial'

Hey I missed this, despite being here. Good grief. And smug people continue to refer scathingly to things as "medieval". I want to go home to the thirteenth century. Below the beginning of a Scotsman article from the 3rd of January. The whole thing.

"THE Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds the government does not have enough evidence to charge in court, it was reported yesterday.

Citing intelligence, defence and diplomatic officials, the Washington Post said the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had asked the White House to decide a more permanent approach for those it did not plan to set free or turn over to courts at home or abroad.

Despite pressure from the international community and human rights advocates to end the holding of suspects without trial at Guantànamo Bay, Cuba, the newspaper said the United States Defence Department planned to apply for $25 million from Congress to build a 200-bed prison to house them permanently.

In addition, some of the Afghan, Saudi and Yemenis currently accommodated at Guantànamo and elsewhere could reportedly be filtered back to their home countries and held in prisons built by the US but operated by their national governments.

"Since the global war on terror is a long-term effort, it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

"We are at a point in time where we have to say, ‘How do you deal with them in the long term?’"

While addressing calls to improve conditions for detainees, the proposals are bound to bring further outcry from human rights groups.

Leading senators from both political parties condemned the reported plan yesterday.

"It’s a bad idea, so we ought to get over it and we ought to have a very careful, constitutional look at this," said Senator Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the senate foreign relations committee.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat on the armed services committee, said the system should be made more democratic. "There must be some modicum, some semblance of due process ... if you’re going to detain people, whether it’s for life or whether it’s for years," he said.

The plan could prompt new questions over Britain’s record on terrorist-suspect detentions, which was condemned in a Law Lords’ ruling last month. The Lords ruled that the detention without trial of nine Muslim suspects in Belmarsh Prison, London - nicknamed "Britain’s Guantànamo" - violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention," wrote Lord Hoffman, one of nine Law Lords involved in the ruling. "The real threat to the life of the nation ... comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

The Home Office has refused to release the detainees, however, saying it is now up to Parliament to decide whether to legislate and that it considers the men - who include a Syrian cleric Britain believed to be a spiritual mentor to Mohammed Atta, a hijacker involved in the September 2001 attacks on the US - a "significant threat" to national security. "