Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US Supreme Court grants court access to terror prisoners

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that foreign terrorism suspects at a US military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba can use the US legal system to challenge their detention, a major defeat for US President George W. Bush.

By a 6 to 3 vote, the justices ruled that US courts do have jurisdiction to consider the claims of the prisoners who say in their lawsuits they are being held in violation of their rights.

The ruling did not address the merits of the claims, but allowed the prisoners to pursue their lawsuits, which lower courts had dismissed.

Justice John Paul Stevens said for the majority that US courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.

The justices overturned a US appeals court ruling dismissing the lawsuits on the grounds that the military base was outside US sovereign territory and that writs of habeas corpus were unavailable to foreign nationals outside US territory.

Bush's policies have been attacked by civil liberties and human rights groups, especially after the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

About 595 foreign nationals, designated "enemy combatants," are being held at the base in Cuba as suspected al-Qaeda members or Taliban fighters.

All but a handful of those at the base are being held without charge.

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