FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court ruled
Thursday for the first time that prisoners
held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba
should have access to lawyers and the American
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news -
web sites)' 2-1 decision was a rebuke to the
administration maintains that because the
660 men held there were picked up overseas
on suspicion of terrorism and are being held
on foreign land, they may be detained indefinitely
without charges or trial.
Supreme Court last month agreed to decide
whether the detainees, picked up in Afghanistan
and Pakistan, should have access to the courts.
The justices agreed to hear that case after
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia ruled that the prisoners had no
rights to the American legal system.
San Francisco appeals court, ruling Thursday
on a petition from a relative of a Libyan
the U.S. military captured in Afghanistan,
said the Bush administration's indefinite
detention of the men runs contrary to American
in times of national emergency -- indeed,
particularly in such times -- it is the obligation
of the Judicial Branch to ensure the preservation
of our constitutional values and to prevent
the Executive Branch from running roughshod
over the rights of citizens and aliens alike,"
Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority.
cannot simply accept the government's position,"
Reinhardt continued, "that the Executive Branch
possesses the unchecked authority to imprison
indefinitely any persons, foreign citizens
included, on territory under the sole jurisdiction
and control of the United States, without
permitting such prisoners recourse of any
kind to any judicial forum, or even access
to counsel, regardless of the length or manner
of their confinement."
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