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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 23:01 GMT
Al-Qaeda suspects to get more rights
Inmates at Camp X-Ray, Cuba
More than 300 suspects are being held at Guantanamo Bay
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Paul Reynolds
BBC World Affairs correspondent in Washington
line

Al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects captured in Afghanistan will have more rights than originally planned when they face US military tribunals, details given to Congress show.

The Defence Department has partly listened to critics of the tribunals, which were first proposed last November.

However, although the rights of suspects have been improved, they are still not as great as those in a court martial.

The new rules appear to be a compromise between allowing defendants some rights while not, as the military would see it, tying the tribunals down in legal procedure.

Death penalty

Full details are expected to be announced on Thursday.

The accused will have the right to engage a civilian lawyer as well as the military one assigned to them.

The death penalty can now only be imposed by a unanimous vote of the military panel, although lesser sentences will require just a majority.

There will also be better disclosure of evidence and the media will have access, except where classified information is concerned.

Bush satisfied

However, the right of appeal will be limited to a three-person hearing - unlike the court martial process which can go right to the Supreme Court - and the evidence allowed is still anything which is regarded as valuable by what is called a "reasonable person".

A White House spokesman said that US President George W Bush was very satisfied with the new regulations.

The tribunals will apply to those held outside the United States, in particular to the 300 or so prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

No decision as to which prisoners will face the tribunals, or when, is expected for several months.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Shukman
"Defendants could hire a civilian lawyer"
See also:

21 Mar 02 | Americas
US to widen terror probe
15 Mar 02 | Americas
Isolation in Camp X-Ray
04 Mar 02 | Americas
US gathers terror suspects' DNA
28 Feb 02 | Americas
Guantanamo hunger strike escalates
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