World News

FACTBOX - Guantanamo base to host first war crimes trial

(Reuters) - The first trial at the controversial U.S. military war crimes court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is scheduled to start on Monday.

Here are some facts about Guantanamo U.S. navy base:

-- The United States took possession of the land around Guantanamo Bay in southeastern Cuba under a lease established after the Spanish-American War. In a 1903 agreement, Washington rented the land in perpetuity and pays a yearly fee but since 1960 ideological foe Cuba has refused to cash the checks.

-- The seaside prison camps housing alleged al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, seen around the world as a symbol of abuse and torture, occupy only a small corner of a military base that hosts a seaport and airport, McDonald’s, Subway and Pizza Hut restaurants, baseball fields, a movie theatre and a bowling alley.

-- The base’s military importance dwindled with the collapse of the Soviet bloc but its location about 110 miles west of Haiti made it the logical holding area for 30,000 Cubans and 20,000 Haitians intercepted as they tried to reach Florida illegally in 1994 and 1995.

-- Among the most prominent sights on the 45-square-mile (117-sq-km) base, the oldest overseas U.S. base, are four towering, high-tech windmills that were installed four years ago and supply 2 to 3 percent of the base’s electricity. More than two dozen electric cars are also in use on the base.

-- Human rights advocates have sarcastically asserted that the iguanas at Guantanamo get more protection than the detainees, saying American soldiers can face stiff fines or jail time for harming the iguanas.

Reporting by Jim Loney, editing by Michael Christie