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Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 10:33 UK

Guantanamo files 'must be public'

Photo of the Camp Five exercise yard reviewed by the US military, 31 May
More than 100 inmates have contested their detention in US courts

A US court has ordered the release of unclassified evidence relating to more than 100 Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Federal judge Thomas Hogan has given the US Justice Department until 29 July to release the documents or specify what information it wants kept secret.

Department officials said they did not intend the documents to remain sealed forever, and asked for an extension to remove sensitive material.

Human rights groups have welcomed the court order.

Public interest

Judge Hogan's ruling, which came down in favour of the media and lawyers for the detainees, could potentially apply to 107 cases pending in US courts.

The decision marks an important step towards restoring America's open court tradition
Jonathan Hafetz
American Civil Liberties Union

"As long as public access does not come at the expense of the litigation interests of petitioners or national security, the court believes the public has a common law right to access the returns," he wrote.

Citing security reasons, the Justice Department had been filing unclassified versions under seal, so that only judges, lawyers and government officials had access.

Department spokesman Dean Boyd said it had sought additional time to ensure that the versions of the documents made public contained no classified information.

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the court order.

"The decision marks an important step towards restoring America's open court tradition that is essential to both accountability and the rule of law," ACLU attorney, Jonathan Hafetz, said.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to close the camp by January 2010, but has met resistance at home and abroad about where to transfer the 240 remaining inmates.



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