House approves bill preventing US trial of Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 212-206 [roll call vote] Wednesday in favor of a defense spending bill [HR 3082] that includes a provision preventing Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees from being transferred to the US for trial. The legislation would block Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the other accused 9/11 conspirators from being tried in a US civilian court. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced last year that Mohammed would face a civilian trial, drawing intense criticism and leading the Obama administration to reconsider the decision [JURIST reports]. The bill must still be approved by the Senate. Holder sent a letter [text, PDF] Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them not to include the provision in the spending bill. If passed, the ban would remain in place until September 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

In the first civilian trial of an ex-Guantanamo detainee, a federal jury convicted [JURIST report] Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] last month on only one of 285 counts of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya. While the Obama administration viewed the conviction and 20-year minimum sentence as a victory, opponents have cited the acquittals as evidence that civilian courts are inadequate venues for trying terror suspects. Several scholars have nevertheless maintained that federal courts are capable of serving justice [JURIST op-ed; JURIST op-ed]. Upon taking office, President Barack Obama pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] by January 2010, but he has been met with strong opposition to transferring detainees to US soil

 

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