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Judge denies detainee petitions

Detainees pray at U.S. naval base at Guantanmo Bay, Cuba.
Detainees pray at U.S. naval base at Guantanmo Bay, Cuba.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Wednesday dismissed petitions by detainees being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denying claims that they are prohibited from having access to due process.

Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal and Australian David Hicks petitioned the court to assume jurisdiction over their case, arguing they otherwise would have no rights and be left "incommunicado."

The three had asked Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to release them from "unlawful custody," to order the government to allow them to meet and confer with counsel and to order the government to cease all interrogation of them while their case was pending.


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In a separate case, the families of 12 Kuwaitis asked the court to prohibit the government from refusing to allow the detainees to meet with their families, to inform them of any charges against the men, to let them designate and consult with counsel of their choice and give them access to an impartial court or tribunal.

Attorneys for the government argued that "there is a body of international law" governing the rights of people seized during combat.

In response to the government's motion to dismiss the cases on largely procedural grounds, Kollar-Kotelly decided that neither her court, nor any federal court, had jurisdiction over the case, and that the plaintiffs' rights are safeguarded by "certain provisions of international law, and that diplomatic channels remain an ongoing and viable means to address the claims raised by these aliens."

While admitting that the plaintiffs' cases "provide no opportunity for the court to address these issues," Kollar-Kotelly said the plaintiffs' claim that they are being held incommunicado "would appear to be inaccurate."

Kollar-Kotelly noted that Australia has begun diplomatic efforts on behalf of Hicks, and that Australian authorities have access to him.

In her opinion, the judge noted that plaintiffs had made no request to become U.S. citizens, nor to seek asylum, which could have opened them to U.S. jurisdiction. She also ruled that the Guantanamo Bay Navy base lies outside U.S. territorial sovereignty, based on a 1903 agreement with Cuba, which establishes Cuba as the legal sovereign over the area.

Kollar-Kotelly's opinion says that all the defendants except Hicks claim to be non-combatants. Little is known about Hicks, except that he was allegedly living in Afghanistan when he was captured.

The Kuwaitis claim they were seized by villagers seeking bounties.


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