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Terror suspects face US military trials

US President George W Bush has signed an executive order to allow the trial of foreigners accused of terrorism by special military instead of civilian courts.
Terror suspects face US military trials
From BBC wires, Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 00:38 GMT


US President George W Bush has signed an executive order to allow the trial of foreigners accused of terrorism by special military instead of civilian courts.
A White House spokesman said the order gave the president an additional tool in bringing those responsible for the 11 September attacks to justice.

No tribunals have yet been set up nor any suspects named.

But White House counsel Albert Gonzales said that the order, which does not apply to American citizens, gives Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the authority to establish a military court in the future.

The BBC's John Leyne says the order is bound to make civil rights activists feel uneasy.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested in the US without charge since the 11 September attacks.

Lawyers for those detained say their clients are being held with little or no evidence.

National interest

The order gives the president the option of delivering a terrorist suspect to Mr Rumsfeld if he felt it was in the interests of national security, Mr Gonzales said, adding that this mechanism would not necessarily be used.

"There may not be a need for this and the president may make a determination that he does not want to use this tool, but he felt it appropriate that he have this tool available to him," he said.

He added that any individual subject to the order would be given a "full and fair trial", and that trial by jury would be permitted.

Mr Gonzales said that such procedures had been used in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt, who had saboteurs tried by military commission.

And courts martial were used by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, as they were for the plotters of Lincoln's own assassination in 1865.

The Bush administration has already pushed through legislation expanding electronic surveillance and imposing stronger penalties for harbouring or financing terrorists.
 
 

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