(Reuters) - Pretrial hearings resumed this week at the controversial war court at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Here are some facts about the detention center and the trials, which have been severely criticized by human rights groups:
- The United States holds about 280 prisoners at Guantanamo and has released or transferred to other governments about 500 previously held there.
- The first captives arrived at Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. The last known arrival was announced on March 14, 2008, after Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani, an Afghan man described as a high-level al Qaeda operative, was transferred there from CIA custody.
- Military prosecutors have sought charges against 15 prisoners and 14 of those cases are still pending. Only one prisoner has been convicted in the Guantanamo war court and that was through a plea bargain. Australian David Hicks admitted training with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and pleaded guilty in March 2007 to providing material support for terrorism. He was sent to Australia to finish a nine-month sentence that ended on December 29, 2007.
- Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in seven of the pending cases, including those of six men accused of plotting the attacks on the United States using hijacked airliners that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001, and one accused of helping plan and prepare the truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania in 1998, which killed 11 people.
- Four Guantanamo prisoners have committed suicide by hanging, three in June 2006 and one in May 2007. The deaths are still under investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service. A fifth prisoner died of colorectal cancer in December 2007, becoming the first to die of natural causes.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Reuters
Reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by Michael Christie and John O'Callaghan