Nov 20 (Reuters) - Five Algerians must be released after nearly seven years of captivity at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a federal judge ruled on Thursday in a setback for the Bush administration.
The decision followed the first hearings under a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that gave Guantanamo prisoners the legal right to challenge their continued confinement.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has promised to close the prison camp after he takes office in January. Meanwhile, U.S. judges in Washington are moving ahead with case-by-case reviews of about 200 detainee legal challenges.
Here are some facts about Guantanamo and Obama’s position on its detention operation.
- Bush administration officials repeatedly said they wanted to close the controversial prison but never advanced a plan to do so. They concluded this year closure would require legislation that was too difficult to negotiate in a heated election season.
- Obama said he will close Guantanamo and that U.S. civilian courts and the traditional military courts-martial system can handle detainee trials, rather than the separate system set up by President George W. Bush and Congress.
- Obama on Sunday said: "I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture."
- The detention camp was set up to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
- The United States holds about 255 prisoners at Guantanamo and has released or transferred to other governments about 500 other suspects previously held there.
- The Pentagon plans to try as many as 80 prisoners but only two have been tried so far. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in six pending cases, including those of five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks and one accused of masterminding the bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors aboard the warship USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
(Reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami and Donna Smith in Washington; Editing by Vicki Allen)