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Pentagon Appoints Tribunal to Try 3 Guantanamo Detainees - 2004-06-29


The Pentagon is moving ahead with its plans to put on trial three accused terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Navy Base in Cuba.

The Pentagon has decided to formally refer charges against three enemy combatants held at Guantanamo to a military commission. The three are Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan and David Hicks of Australia.

Referral is the step in the military commission process in which a presiding officer and panel members are designated to hear specific cases. The presiding officer chosen to hear all three of these cases is a retired Army colonel who has been recalled to active duty. The four panel members are active duty officers, two from the Air Force and two from the Marine Corps.

A Pentagon announcement says no trial date has yet been set but that the newly-named Presiding Officer, Peter Brownback, will soon contact attorneys for the three detainees to set an initial trial schedule.

The three detainees held at Guantanamo have been previously charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes. Mr. al Bahlul is alleged to have been a key al-Qaida propagandist as well as a bodyguard to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Mr. al Qosi is alleged to have been a longtime assistant of the accused terrorist leader. Mr. Hicks is alleged to have attended al-Qaida training courses and to have taken up arms against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Lawyers and relatives of the three men have dismissed the allegations.

The three are among six detainees who have been designated by President Bush as eligible for trial by U.S. military commissions.

The decision to move ahead with the process follows a Supreme Court ruling that terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo must be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

A Pentagon spokesman, Major Michael Shavers, says that high court decision will have no impact on the military's plans to move ahead with trials for the three detainees.

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