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Obama Seeks to Halt Military Commissions, Expected to Order Gitmo Closed This Week

As Spencer noted, in one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama yesterday asked military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay to suspend all military commission trials of prisoners there. That means the ongoing proceedings for the five men accused of conspiring to plan the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as two alleged child soldiers, would be halted.

Following up on his campaign promises to restore the rule of law, and under strong pressure from legal advocates such as the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First and many others, Obama acted more quickly than many expected to shut down the commissions process. Although the military judge must agree to the request — and in at least one case, the detainee’s lawyer is expected to object, seeking instead full dismissal of his case — it is unlikely that the military commissions will proceed.

While the world (and the media) was focused yesterday on the pomp and circumstance of the historic inauguration and the 10 black-tie inaugural balls that followed, the Obama administration was quietly getting to work: Obama verbally requested a 120-day delay in the trials through Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and prosecutors then submitted a motion to the military judges.

The motion asks for a suspension “in the interests of justice” and to allow the new president “time to review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions.”

Given his critical remarks of the military commissions process in the past and his pledge to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison, it’s widely expected that Obama will try to devise a new way to prosecute the detainees charged — either in federal court, or in some sort of new national security court.

Obama is also expected to issue an order to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay this week.

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