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Pentagon Drafts New Criteria for Trials of Suspected Terrorists

Pentagon officials have released new regulations for upcoming trials of suspected terrorists before special military commissions. These rules will allow for trials to proceed for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington.

The Pentagon issued Thursday a new manual that outlines how trials will proceed for terrorism suspects.

Under the new regulations, defendants will have access to all the evidence prosecutors will present against them, including hearsay and classified information.

But judges will have the ultimate authority to determine what is permissable.

They will also have the authority to allow certain evidence obtained by torture or coercion. However, this is only for evidence gathered prior to December 30, 2005, when a law banning this type of evidence went into effect.

The Defense Department's Daniel Dell'Orto says these special military commissions will be similiar to military court martial cases. But he adds that there are some differences. "I would argue that the accused is not disadvantaged under these rules as compared to the rules for courts-martial. I think compared to international settings, this process is a very, very fair process," he said.

The new regulations follow the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which President Bush signed into law last October.

Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, who is in charge of these trials, says it was their goal to design a system to meet the Geneva Conventions and provide a fair trial. "I am satisfied that these rules provide rules and a basis on which you can conduct a fair trial," he said.

General Hemingway says detainee trials temporarily halted at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention center will now be able to go forward with these special military commissions.