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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
US remodels Guantanamo hearings
By Daniela Relph
BBC News, Washington

Two guards walk with an inmate at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba
Detainees will in most cases be present at their hearings
The military authorities in the United States have announced changes to the military commission that will try detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The structure of the trials will now be similar to a traditional US court room, with a presiding officer effectively acting as a judge.

The accused will be present at the hearing, except when classified information is discussed.

But human rights organisations remained critical of the new tribunal set-up.

'Judge and jury'

The Pentagon said its aim was to model the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay more closely on the judge and jury structure.

Each hearing will have a presiding officer who will effectively act as the judge and decide most questions of law.

There will also be a number of panel members who will support the presiding officer but also work like a jury.

They will determine findings and set sentences.

Accused at hearing

The Department of Defence has also clarified rules on the presence of the accused at his own trial.

He will be present except when it is necessary to protect classified information.

But the Center for Constitutional Rights described the proposals as just window dressing, saying detainees still would not know all the evidence being used against them and had no right of appeal.

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