- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

A federal judge ruled yesterday that two British citizens and an Australian captured in Afghanistan and held in Cuba had no right to trial before U.S. courts.
The ruling supports the government's strategy for holding nearly 600 suspected Taliban and al Qaeda militants without trial at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal and Australian David Hicks are among those being held there, the government says. They were captured while fighting with Taliban and al Qaeda forces, U.S. officials maintain.
The men's families hired attorneys in the United States who sued the Bush administration, demanding that the men be allowed to argue their cases before a federal judge.
But U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the U.S. legal system had no jurisdiction over those held in Cuba, and that the men had not been charged with any legal offenses and thus were not deprived of due process.
She rejected the plaintiffs' argument that "our leased military bases abroad, which continue under the sovereignty of foreign nations, hostile or friendly, are functionally equivalent to being land borders or ports of entry of the United States or otherwise within the United States."
The judge also struck down the argument that the detained men should have the same right to U.S. courts as Cuban citizens who have requested political asylum and gained entry into the United States.
Barbara Olshansky, a legal director for the civil rights group representing the men, said the judge based her decision on "irrelevant and ill-reasoned" precedents.
"We find the decision extremely troubling," said Miss Olshansky, who works for the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The court has left the petitioners in legal limbo without recourse. They are being held at the unfettered discretion of the United States and have nowhere to turn."
In November, President Bush and his administration ordered the men held and not accorded protections as prisoners of war on grounds they were among the most dangerous Taliban and al Qaeda fighters captured during the U.S.-led battle in Afghanistan.
Mr. Hicks, 26, reputedly threatened to kill an American upon his arrival at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. officials said.
The three prisoners named in the complaint are being held indefinitely with about 300 others.
No treaty or U.S. law grants prisoners such as those at Camp X-Ray the right to an attorney. That would change if they were charged .
The Nov. 13 executive order violates the Constitution's guarantee of due process, to which any foreign nationals are entitled, according to the complaint. Among other things, the complaint accuses Mr. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert and Col. Terry Carrico of withholding the right to an attorney from the prisoners.

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