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Obama to resume Guantanamo trials

US president Barack Obama's decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay allows the prosecution there of several suspected 9/11 conspirators, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Mr Obama's order reverses his move two years ago to halt new trials and reignites arguments over the legality of the military commissions.

But fierce congressional opposition to trying Mohammed and other detainees held at the Cuba base in the United States has left Mr Obama with few options. It has also forced his retreat from his promise to shut down the prison.

Mohammed and a handful of detainees have been charged in connection with the 2001 attacks but the charges were dismissed following the end of the military commissions. Administration officials have declined to discuss the potential prosecution of Mohammed or any of the other detainees.

Mr Obama made the change with clear reluctance, bowing to the reality that Congress's vehement opposition to trying detainees on US soil leaves them nowhere else to go. The president emphasised his preference for trials in federal civilian courts, and his administration blamed congressional meddling for closing off that avenue.

"I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al Qaida and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system - including (federal) courts - to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened," Mr Obama said in a statement.

"Going forward, all branches of government have a responsibility to come together to forge a strong and durable approach to defend our nation and the values that define who we are as a nation."

The White House reiterated that the administration remains committed to eventually closing Guantanamo, which is on an isolated US Navy base in eastern Cuba, adding that Monday's actions were in pursuit of that goal.

Guantanamo has been a major political and national security headache for the president since he took office promising to close the prison within a year - the deadline came and went without him ever setting a new one.

Critics of the military commission system, which was established specifically to deal with the detainees at Guantanamo, contend that suspects are not given some of the most basic protections afforded to people prosecuted in American courts, and that that serves as a recruitment tool for terrorists.


From Belfast Telegraph