Source : - All Headline News

October 26, 2006

Shaveta Bansal - All Headline News Staff Writer

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (AHN) - A senior defense official on Wednesday said that about 60 to 80 of the suspected terrorists detained at the Guantanamo Base camp in Cuba are expected to go on trial soon. The official said that arraignments and trials of the detainees could start as early as next summer.

Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee operations, told reporters "about 60 to 80 defendants" are expected to go on trial.

Stimson said that at first a group of 14 high-profile detainees will be tried. It is, however, not clear that whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and 13 other top Al-Qaeda captives, who have been recently transferred from secret CIA detention centers outside the U.S., will be among those tried.

Stimson said the group of detainees will first face a military panel that will review their status as enemy combatants, before laying charges against them.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law. But six weeks later, President Bush sought to persuade the critics and some fellow Republicans by drafting new rules and procedures for the military trial.

Stimson said that a manual for court martials under military commissions have to be developed and new investigations conducted before charges will be brought against any detainees, adding that it will give the military some time to prepare.

Guantanamo has only one court room and scant accommodations even for visiting military personnel, much less for the hundreds of lawyers, paralegals, journalists and others expected to descend on the base if trials get off the ground.

Brigadier General Edward Leacock, the deputy commander of the joint task force that runs detention operations at Guantanamo, said the proposals for the the construction of a new judicial complex with five to 10 court rooms to handle multiple trials by special military commissions was underway.

Leacock said several sites for the complex were under consideration, including an airfield which is no longer in use.

"Gitmo doesn't have a Home Depot," Leacock said. "So if you want to build something, there's a process for getting material, supplies and equipment down here."

There are currently 454 detainees at the prison, most considered enemy combatants. Many of them have been approved for transfer to either their home countries or another nation that was willing to accept them.

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