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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Afghan detainees launch legal challenge to US military commissions bill
Holly Manges Jones at 7:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers representing 25 detainees in US custody at Bagram Airbase [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Afghanistan filed a habeas corpus [LectLaw backgrounder] petition [PDF text; press release] Monday calling for their release and permission to meet with attorneys, two requests not afforded to terrorist suspects under controversial detainee legislation approved [JURIST report] by the US Congress last week. The Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] filed the petition on behalf of the men, saying that in passing the military commissions bill [JURIST news archive], Congress has endangered the rights [CCR report] of detainees. The measure, which is yet to be signed into law by President Bush, allows the military to detain enemy combatants indefinitely and try them before military commissions. Before passing the measure Thursday, the US Senate narrowly rejected an amendment [JURIST report] sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter that would have eliminated a highly-controversial provision stripping detainees of the right to file habeas petitions in federal court.

The petition is similar to many filed by prisoners being held at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], but even though it was filed prior to the bill's approval, it was written retroactively. In order for the detainees to be successful, a judge will have to strike down part of the new law precluding the challenges. The petition will be heard by US District Judge Richard Leon [official profile] who previously ruled in a Guantanamo case that Congress has given the president the authority to detain enemy combatants [JURIST news archive] for the duration of the war on terror. AP has more.

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