Lawyers for Britons in Camp X-Ray argue they are being held 'illegally'

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The Independent US

Lawyers for two of the Britons being held at Camp X-Ray yesterday asked a US court to release the men – arguing that because they had not been charged with any offence their detention was illegal and unconstitutional.

A team of prominent human rights lawyers filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus for Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, both from Tipton, West Midlands. They also filed a similar petition on behalf of Australian David Hicks, and later this week, they will go back to court on behalf of three other Britons being held at Camp X-Ray.

Joseph Margulies, one of the team associated with the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, said that none of the detainees being held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had been charged or offered legal representation. Such a situation questioned the Bush administration's commitment to both the US Constitution and international law, he said.

"We distinguish ourselves from terrorists only by our commitment to the rule of law, and the law is perfectly clear that the President can't order a person locked up indef- initely, without legal process," he said, after the team filed the petitions at the US District Court in Washington.

"Unless the US says the law is simply a matter of convenience, something we are free to ignore whenever and wherever we choose, we have to change what we're doing."

The five Britons, along with Mr Hicks, are among 300 alleged Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters being held at the US naval base on the south-eastern edge of Cuba.

The Bush administration has said that the legal protection of the Geneva Conventions should apply to the former Taliban fighters but not to those prisoners who were members of al-Qa'ida.