Prisoners at Guantanamo held illegally, judge rules

A FEDERAL judge criticised the Bush administration yesterday for holding hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay naval base without legal rights, saying the US Supreme Court had ruled they should have access to the courts. She said the government's military tribunals were unconstitutional.

In a written decision, Judge Joyce Hens Green said Mr Bush's so-called war on terror "cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years".

Ruling on a claim by more than 50 prisoners, the judge said the Supreme Court had made clear last summer that prisoners had the right in US courts to challenge their incarceration. She added: "The court concludes that the petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are `enemy combatants' subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process of law."

When the Supreme Court ruled last year that prisoners had the right to challenge their incarceration, the government said the military tribunals it had set up met the court's requirements. Prisoners' lawyers disagreed. The US is planning to free scores of the 550 prisoners.

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