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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Legal rights boost in Guantanamo
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
Images of hooded and chained prisoners caused an outcry
Terror suspects held at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay must be allowed to meet privately with their lawyers, a federal judge has ruled.

The US Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that detainees can challenge their imprisonment in the American courts.

A district judge has now decided that any meetings with legal representatives must not be filmed or recorded.

Around 600 suspects are still held at Guantanamo Bay, although nearly 200 have been released or transferred.

Government lawyers failed to convince Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that audio and visual recording should be made of suspects' meetings with their lawyers and that the authorities should be able to review the lawyers' notes.

The judge dismissed arguments that allowing conversations to proceed unmonitored might pose a risk to national security.

Instead she stressed the importance of the confidential relationship between lawyer and client.

The court is acutely aware of the delicate balance that must be struck when weighing the importance of national security against the rights of the individual
Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
US district judge
The judgement came in a 25-page ruling on a case brought by three Kuwaiti men held at Guantanamo Bay since late 2001.

The men sued the US government in 2002 demanding to be told the nature of charges against them, as well as claiming the right to legal representation and meetings with their families.

"The court is acutely aware of the delicate balance that must be struck when weighing the importance of national security against the rights of the individual," Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

"However, the government has supplied only the most slender legal support for its argument, which cannot withstand the weight of the authority surrounding the importance of the attorney-client privilege."

Also on Wednesday, two detainees accused of links to al-Qaeda appeared before US military review panels, while four others refused to attend their hearings.

The reviews have been set up to determine whether detainees can be classified as "enemy combatants" and subsequently tried before military tribunals.

Around 200 reviews have been held so far, but just one prisoner has been released.


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