U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the military trials of two terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will resume as soon as possible, following a court ruling that such proceedings are legal.
Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon the court's ruling amounts to a victory for the Bush administration's decision to put terror suspects on trial before military tribunals.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Friday the protections in the Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war do not apply to members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization.
The court ruled in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who authorities say was once the driver for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and is now being held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the ruling clears the way for trials before the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay to resume.
"The court's ruling marks an advance in the global struggle against extremists and aids the effort to protect innocent life," he said. "It vindicates the president's determination to treat suspected terrorists humanely, but not to grant them the protections of the Geneva Conventions as a matter of right. It should expedite the process for trying suspected terrorists posing a threat to the civilized world as we saw in London earlier this month."
Mr. Rumsfeld says the trials of two terrorism suspects will resume as soon as possible.
Pentagon officials say the suspects are Mr. Hamdan and David Hicks, an Australian charged with fighting alongside the Taleban regime against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Appearing with Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon was Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who says his government supports the U.S. decision to put Mr. Hicks on trial before a military tribunal.
"Australia is satisfied that the military commission process in relation to David Hicks - the one Australian held in Guantanamo Bay - will provide a proper measure of justice," he said. "We welcome the Appeals Court decision in the United States, which removes a roadblock to a speedy adjudication of Mr. Hick's position. The allegations against him are particularly serious and we look forward to them being dealt with before the tribunal."
Secretary Rumsfeld says the Pentagon will prepare charges against eight other individuals currently held at the detention compound in Cuba.
There are about 520 inmates at Guantanamo, including some who have been held without trial since 2001.