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A call to close Cuba facility

Times Staff Writer

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a measure Monday to force the Pentagon to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and move the trials of Al Qaeda suspects to the United States.

But the Defense Department got another green light for those Guantanamo tribunals to continue, when the Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the appeal of two detainees who challenged the legality of the military commissions.

In a statement, Feinstein said the detention facility had hurt America’s credibility around the world because of allegations of abuse there and doubts about the legal rights afforded detainees.

“We must recognize the sustained damage this facility is doing to our international standing,” she said in the statement. “We are better served by closing this facility and transferring the detainees elsewhere.”

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Feinstein’s measure would transfer Guantanamo detainees to military or civilian detention facilities in the United States or to their home countries. The legislation allows detainees who “pose no continuing security threat” to be released. Feinstein said she opposed “releasing any terrorists.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this year that he had sought to close Guantanamo when he took the helm of the Pentagon in December. Like Feinstein, Gates has said he fears that trials at Guantanamo lack credibility.

Gates canceled a $102-million project to build a Guantanamo courthouse. But administration lawyers’ concerns prevented Gates from closing the prison or moving trials to the United States.

Under current law, detainees have no habeas corpus rights but can appeal the results of trials and status hearings to U.S. courts.

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In Monday’s Supreme Court action, three justices -- David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer -- voted to hear the case of the two Guantanamo Bay detainees challenging their confinement. Court rules require four votes to hear a case.

julian.barnes@latimes.com


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