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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January 2004, 12:07 GMT
UK appeal backs terror suspects
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
Nine Britons are being held by the US military in Cuba
An appeal on behalf of terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay by the US is to be made by about 135 peers and MPs.

In an unusual move, the group is filing a legal brief with the US Supreme Court.

It supports a case being brought by 16 detainees, who argue that they should be entitled to challenge their detention before a civilian court.

The Supreme Court is already due to consider whether the US government's policy on holding foreigners at the

base is legal.

The representation was being made as families of British detainees await confirmation of reports they could soon be home, two years after they were taken to the Cuban base.

Resolved 'within weeks'

Prime minister Tony Blair on Sunday told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost the issue of the UK nationals' detention would be resolved within weeks.

But he declined to say whether they would be repatriated or put on trial in Britain.

He said: "I think it will be resolved one way or another in the next few weeks but I can't say exactly at this juncture how it will be resolved.

"It is extremely important that we balance up the absolute proper consideration that they get a fair and decent trial with the need to protect people in this country."

Former ministers

The former master of the rolls, Lord Donaldson is among the Parliamentarians concerned at the detention of suspects at Camp Delta.

It's a situation which could not arise in this country
Lord Donaldson

He told BBC News: "I think it's a complete negation of the rule of law, that you can have a place within the jurisdiction of the United States government - it is a sovereign base there - where they can do what they like unfettered by the law.

"It's a situation which could not arise in this country."

The group, including four retired law lords and the former ministers Robin Cook, Clare Short and Chris Smith, will be filed on Wednesday, the Guardian said.

It consists of about 85 MPs and 50 members of the House of Lords.

They argue generally on behalf of the 600 or so detainees that under the US constitution the US government is fully accountable for its actions to the courts, the Guardian says.

It also reports that the brief says some of the nine British detainees were innocently caught up in the Afghan conflict, and a majority were seized in foreign countries - in some cases far from the conflict.

Hopes raised

On Friday it was reported that the first of the nine British terrorist suspects held by the US at Guantanamo Bay could soon be released.

Relatives' hopes were raised when a senior American official hinted that seven "medium risk" detainees could be repatriated if the UK "managed" them.

Is was thought this means the US is ready to accept the men being monitored or put under surveillance by police.

The solicitor for detainee Feroz Abbasi - whom the Americans have indicated is considered a "high-risk" detainee - claims the apparent US climb down means Home Secretary David Blunkett is the only bar to their freedom.

Louise Christian said: "The obstacle in the way of the British citizens being brought back to this country is not the US Government - I'm afraid the fear is that it's our own home secretary who is the obstacle."

But when the claims were put to the prime minister on Breakfast with Frost he denied London was responsible for holding up the Britons' return.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Most of the nine British men have been held at Guantanamo Bay for two years"



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