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Government Planning to Prosecute About 25 Gitmo Detainees in Federal Court

The Obama administration is making plans to send about 25 detainees from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to federal prisons, to be tried in civilian federal courts, according to Newsweek.

As TWI reported last week, the biggest ongoing controversy is over where to try the five suspected 9/11 co-conspirators. The administration has said it prefers to try terror suspects in federal court, whenever possible, and legal experts say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators have all committed crimes easily triable in civilian court.

On the other hand, Congress last week passed amendments to the Military Commissions Act, giving military commissions broad jurisdiction over so-called “unprivileged enemy belligerents” (what the Bush administration called “enemy combatants”), suggesting that many lawmakers prefer trials by military commission.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff acknowledged in his story late Friday that in fact, no final decisions have yet been made on where any of the detainees will be tried. As TWI reported, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in four different federal jurisdictions are vying for the opportunity to try the cases, with prosecutors in Manhattan, the principal site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, making the strongest case.

Security concerns, as well as the ability to offer terror suspects a fair trial before a local New York jury, remain among the major challenges.

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