November 13, 2009 / 5:08 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. Republicans blast Obama decision on Gitmo

WASHINGTON, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Republicans on Friday condemned the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute five Sept. 11 suspects in a U.S. court in New York rather than at the Guantanamo Bay military base as "irresponsible."

House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner said the move "puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people."

Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, called the decision "misguided."

In May, House Republicans introduced legislation aimed at preventing the transfer or release of Guantanamo prisoners into the United States.

Next week, Senate Republicans will try to win approval of similar legislation when it debates a military funding bill.

The administration said it would transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York, and four others from Guantanamo to New York to stand trial.

They were being prosecuted in U.S. military commissions at the military base in Cuba. But President Barack Obama has pledged to close the prison and move some of the cases there to traditional courts for trial.

Representative Howard McKeon, the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama’s decision "will once again delay bringing justice to the victims and their families."

He said the move "introduces unnecessary risk to the citizens of New York, and undermines the legitimacy of the military commissions system."

Republicans have also argued that moving the cases to a U.S. criminal court could give suspects legal rights they do not deserve.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy who chairs the Judiciary Committee, praised the decision.

"By trying them in our federal courts, we demonstrate to the world that the most powerful nation on earth also trusts its judicial system, a system respected around the world," he said in a statement. (Reporting by Richard Cowan, editing by Alan Elsner)

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