Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Obama plea stops Guantanamo trial

US Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay
President Obama wants to review the tribunal process

The military trial of an inmate held at Guantanamo Bay has been suspended after a request by US President Barack Obama.

In one of his first acts as president, Mr Obama asked for a temporary halt to all tribunals to review the process.

The judge in the case of Omar Khadr - a Canadian man accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 - has suspended the case for 120 days.

There are 21 pending cases, including those against five men accused of plotting the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The judge in that case will consider the president's request later on Wednesday.

Mr Obama has repeatedly promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where some 250 inmates accused of having links to terrorism remain.

Just hours after taking the oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol, he moved to halt the controversial process of military tribunals.

Guantanamo Bay camp at sunrise, 19 November
Established after 9/11 attacks to hold foreign terror suspects
250 inmates remain in the camp
Charges brought in 21 cases

The two-page document, ordered jointly by Mr Obama and the US Department of Defense, sought a 120-day suspension of trials.

The delay would "permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process", the document said.

The legal process has been widely criticised because the US military acts as jailer, judge and jury, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Guantanamo.

And in his inaugural address on Tuesday, Mr Obama emphasised the idea of respect for justice and the rights of the individual, rejecting "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals".

However, closing Guantanamo Bay will not be easy, our correspondent adds. Questions remain over where those charged will be tried and where those freed can be safely sent.

On his first full day in the Oval Office, Mr Obama is due to meet top national security officials as he takes over as commander-in-chief.

In his inaugural address, the new president spoke of his desire to usher in a new era of peace, "to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan".

Officials said he would conduct a video conference with US military chiefs in the two countries.

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