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Protests Mark Guantanamo Anniversary


Protesters seeking closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility wear orange jumpsuits and black hoods as they demonstrate outside the White House, 11 Jan 2011

Protesters seeking closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility wear orange jumpsuits and black hoods as they demonstrate outside the White House, 11 Jan 2011

Human rights organizations are demanding that U.S. President Barack Obama close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, nine years after the prison opened its doors. On Tuesday, protestors rallied in Washignton.

Dressed in prison uniforms, these men and women marched from the White House to the Department of Justice to remind President Barack Obama about a promise he made two years ago.

Jeremy Varon, of Witness Against Torture, said "The main message is to call on President Obama to recommit to closing Guantanamo."

When President Obama took office in 2009, he signed orders to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison, saying, "Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now."

But after two years, more than 170 terror suspects remain behind bars.

Many of these human rights groups say President Obama did not do enough to make his case to the American public that Guantanamo Bay prison needs to be closed.

One of President Obama's critics is Tom Parker of Amnesty International. "This is just not something that he's really put a lot of effort into, to be honest. Closing Guantanamo was always going to be a lot more difficult than signing an order saying close Guantanamo," he said.

In 2009, the administration planned to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , the self described mastermind of September 11, in New York City. But opposition to trying terror suspects on U.S. soil stopped the plan. And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed remains in detention.

President Obama says while he still wants Guantanamo closed, some detainees will have to be held indefinitely. He says they cannot be tried either in federal court or in a millitary commission because of how they were captured or interrogated. "One of the toughest problems is what to do with the people we know are dangerous," he said.

But Tom Parker disgrees, saying, "We believe that everybody who is held at Guantanamo should be charged with a crime or released."

Now, there's a new hurdle for these activists. President Obama reluctantly signed a defense bill last week that prohibits the use of military dollars for bringing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. It's a measure that makes it difficult - if not impossible - for them to be prosecuted in civilian court during the current fiscal year.

The bill also restricts the use of military funds to send detainees to foreign countries unless certain conditions are met.

In a statement to the media, Mr. Obama said he objects to these limits but signed the bill because it authorizes billions of dollars for the military. He said he will work with Congress to repeal the restrictions.

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