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Lawyers for Guantanamo Terror Suspects to Pursue Their Challenge of US Detention Policy - 2004-02-20

Lawyers for two of the British terror suspects being released from a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say they will continue to pursue their challenge of the United States government's detention of the men without trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a case filed by the private Center for Constitutional Rights which argues against the government's position denying detained terror suspects the right to appear in court to challenge their detention.

The Center represents two of the six detainees the United States plans to turn over to legal authorities in their own nations. Five of the men are British and one is Danish.

The prisoners have been held in detention without formal charges or access to the legal process at the military base for more than two years, because of suspected links to the al Qaida terrorist network. The detentions have sparked an international outcry from many human rights activists, legal scholars and lawyers.

The U.S. government says the detainees are not covered by the terms of the Geneva Conventions because they are illegal combatants, who wore no uniforms and some used aliases. They are being held during the war on terror to gather intelligence and to keep them from helping foes of the United States in future attacks.

But Michael Ratner, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, calls holding the men in detention for two years without charge or trial a "lawless process." "Had they put a process in place, which is what we insisted on to begin with, a legal process, which they were entitled to under the Geneva Conventions or under regular civil law of a hearing you can hold someone for two years, it is very likely these people would have been released almost immediately," he said.

Lawyers for the Center say they do not know why the U.S. government chose to release their two clients and four others from among the more than 600 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. But they say the government's initiative results from the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case.