Guantanomo to stay open longer, former detainees sue in UK

Guantanomo will stay ope

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 248.88 (photo credit: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed)
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 248.88
(photo credit: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed)
President Barack Obama said he won't set a new deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but does expect the facility to shut down sometime next year. The administration no longer feels it can meet the January 2010 deadline Obama set for its closure soon after taking office. Obama says he isn't disappointed about missing the deadline, but has realized that things move slower in Washington than he expected. Obama said the timeline for closing Guantanamo will depend on cooperation from Congress. About 220 detainees remain at the prison, and the administration must decide how to prosecute some in US courts and turn others over to other countries. Obama spoke in an interview with Fox News Channel. Also on Wednesday, A British judge ruled that British spies can keep some evidence secret from former Guantanamo prisoners who are suing the government for alleged complicity in their detention, the first volley in a legal battle to expose what role Britain played in the men's imprisonment. Seven ex-Guantanamo inmates allege they were tortured or abused at the US prison camp and elsewhere - and that the British government contributed to their torment. Their civil suit seeking damages from the spy agencies MI5 and MI6 and other government bodies has yet to come to trial, but the government won a preliminary victory by securing the right to keep selected pieces of information from the men and their lawyers. Justice Stephen Silber warned that his ruling was a "stark question of law, not related to the facts of the case." He said lawyers would still have to work with any future trial judge to decide which evidence, if any, could be kept under wraps. Government lawyer Jonathan Crow said officials were likely to invoke the "closed material procedure" to protect sensitive evidence. In that case, the material could support the government's case but could only be reviewed by a specially appointed lawyer who could not discuss it with the former inmates or their attorneys. Similar arrangements exist to keep classified government material from opposing counsel in the United States and Canada. The former Guantanamo detainees - who include Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed - argued that not allowing them access to government evidence would be unfair and contrary to the principles of open justice. Reprieve, a London-based human rights group which has intervened on the detainees' behalf, said it found Silber's decision alarming. "A closed evidence procedure would mean that claimants like Binyam Mohamed would have one, if not both, hands tied behind their backs," the group said. Michael Fordham, their lawyer, said they would appeal the ruling as quickly as possible but he also noted that the government had claimed it could take until next year to decide which evidence it wanted to keep secret. Fordham's clients are Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo earlier this year; Libyan-born Omar Deghayes, Iraqi Bisher al-Rawi and Palestinian-Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, all British residents who were released in 2007; Moazzam Begg, released in 2005; as well as Britons Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar.