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Judge orders detainee hearings

From the Associated Press

A federal judge overseeing Guantanamo Bay lawsuits ordered the Bush administration to put other cases aside and give detainees their day in court.

“The time has come to move these forward,” Judge Thomas F. Hogan said Tuesday during the first hearing on whether detainees are being held lawfully. “Set aside every other case that’s pending in the division and address this case first.”

The Justice Department has fought for years to keep civilian judges from reviewing evidence against terrorism suspects.

But a Supreme Court ruling last month opened the courthouse doors to detainees.

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About 200 lawyers, law clerks and reporters sat through the nearly three-hour hearing. Other lawyers joined by phone. Attorneys, nearly all of them working without pay, have long asked for a judge to scrutinize the evidence, saying the detainees could not be held indefinitely simply on the government’s say-so.

There are about 270 detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The government has already cleared one in five for release and is just looking for a country to send them to, the Justice Department said.

Hogan is coordinating most of the estimated 200 Guantanamo cases on behalf of most of the Washington federal judges. He will decide how quickly the government must turn over the evidence against the detainees.

The government is asking for about eight weeks to start doing so. It is expanding its litigation team and wants time to update and add to evidence that was originally used to justify holding the detainees.

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Lawyers for the detainees adamantly oppose that, and Hogan was skeptical. If the evidence was enough to warrant holding the detainees for six years, he said, why must it be changed now?


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