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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 13:42 GMT
Official 'sorry' for lawyers jibe
An unnamed detainee
Some detainees will face a military tribunal in the coming months
A Pentagon official who criticised US law firms for representing detainees at the Guantanamo Bay US base in Cuba has apologised for his remarks.

In a radio interview, Charles Stimson said he found it shocking that US law firms would represent inmates at the detention centre free of charge.

He also said the firms might suffer financially when corporate clients found they were involved in the cases.

Mr Stimson now says he did not intend to question the lawyers' integrity.

US lawyers' groups have written to President George W Bush calling for Mr Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs, to be sacked.

Around 400 detainees remain at the Guantanamo base five years after it was opened, despite calls by the UN and human rights groups to close it.

Some 75 of them are expected to face military tribunals in the coming months.

The others face indefinite detention without trial at the naval facility - which lies outside the jurisdiction of the US judicial system.

The Bush administration says the centre is a vital tool in its "war on terror".

'Attempt to intimidate'

In his original interview last week for Federal News Radio, Mr Stimson listed a number of major firms who he said should be boycotted for their work at Guantanamo.

He also suggested that some firms might have been receiving money from elsewhere to represent clients, and should explain themselves.

But Mr Stimson said on Wednesday that his comments did not reflect his core beliefs.

"Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defence of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not," he said.

Neal Sonnett, the head of the American Judicature Society, a non-partisan group, said Mr Stimson's remarks had been "shameful and irresponsible".

He had made a "blatant attempt to intimidate lawyers and their firms who are rendering important public service in upholding the rule of law and our democratic ideals", he said.

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