Democrats to let detainees in U.S. for trial: aides

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:31pm EDT

In this photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, and shot through glass, a guard watches over Guantanamo detainees inside the exercise yard at Camp 5 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 31, 2009. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool

In this photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, and shot through glass, a guard watches over Guantanamo detainees inside the exercise yard at Camp 5 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brennan Linsley/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a partial reprieve for President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats plan to allow detainees held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be brought onto U.S. soil for trial, two congressional aides said on Wednesday.

The House of Representatives last month had approved a bill to permit transferring the detainees here only after a risk analysis was given to Congress and barred releasing them into the United States through September 30. A Senate measure also banned them from U.S. soil through September 30.

The Democratic compromise would permit detainees to be brought to the United States for trial but not permanent detention, the aides said, declining further identification because the details were not yet formally released.

The deal would also bar releasing any of the detainees into the United States through September 30, one of the aides said.

The Obama administration earlier this week brought the first detainee from the prison in Cuba to New York for trial, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian accused of being involved in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. Current laws do not address the disposition of Guantanamo detainees.

Democrats, who control the House and Senate, plan to include the provisions in a compromise $100 billion bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they hope to push through the two chambers by next week.

The two chambers approved different versions of the war-funding legislation and have been trying for weeks to hammer out a compromise package but have been stymied by issues like the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison.

Obama has pledged to close the controversial prison by early 2010 and asked for $80 million in the legislation to begin that process. However, lawmakers had rejected his request and demanded a plan before allowing the detainees to be moved.

The war-funding measure has grown significantly over the past few weeks, adding more foreign aid for Pakistan, up to $7.65 billion to fight the H1N1 flu virus and extending a $100 billion credit line to the International Monetary Fund as it tries to help countries weather the global economic downturn.

House Republicans originally supported the war funding bill but now oppose it because of the IMF credit line, arguing it should be considered on its own merits. That has forced House Democratic leaders to reach out to the anti-war members of their party to beseech them to now support passing the bill.

But that faction, which originally opposed the measure, refused unless they removed another provision that bars releasing photos of prisoners abused at U.S. facilities in Iraq. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued for their release.

Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter said she believed the IMF money would stay in the bill but that the photos language would be removed, clearing the way for Democrats to have enough votes to pass the bill.

One congressional aide said the legislation also includes $1 billion for a new program aimed at getting older, less fuel-efficient vehicles off the road in exchange for ones that get better mileage. The House approved a separate bill to offer vouchers of up to $4,500.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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