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Federal Judge Extends Rights For Detainees at Guantanamo

By Neil A. Lewis

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

A federal judge ruled against the Bush administration Monday, declaring that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were clearly entitled to have federal courts examine whether they have been lawfully detained.

The judge, Joyce Hens Green of Federal District Court in Washington, rejected the argument that federal courts could not issue writs of habeas corpus for Guantanamo that would require the government to justify the detentions before a judge.

Green said that although the Guantanamo base was in Cuba, the Supreme Court definitively ruled in June that it was not out of the reach of American law as administration officials have argued.

“American authorities are in full control at Guantanamo Bay, their activities are immune from Cuban law,” leaving no reason to contend that American law does not apply, she wrote.

“Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats,” the judge wrote, “that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years.”

Green also declared unconstitutional the tribunals that the military established over the summer to review the detentions in the hope of satisfying the Supreme Court ruling. In addition, she questioned whether some of the information used against the detainees had been obtained by torture and was thus unreliable, the first time that problem has been brought up in a judicial opinion.

The Justice Department has contended that federal courts should steer clear of involving themselves in the detention of terror suspects because that is left to the sole discretion of the president in his constitutional role as commander in chief.

But over the last few years, some federal courts have rejected that sweeping assertion.