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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush signs law on terror suspects

US PRESIDENT George W Bush yesterday signed legislation authorising tough interrogation of terror suspects and smoothing the way for their trials before military commissions, calling it a “vital tool” in the war against terrorism.


Mr Bush’s plan for treatment of the terror suspects became law just six weeks after he acknowledged the Central Intelligence Agency had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.

“With the bill I’m about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice,” Mr Bush said, referring to the September 11 attacks.

Among those the US hopes to try are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks, as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be September 11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

“It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives,” Mr Bush said. “I have that privilege this morning.

“We will answer brutal murder with patient justice,” Mr Bush said. “Those who kill the innocent will be held to account.”

The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Mr Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence.

The law protects detainees from blatant abuses during questioning — such as rape, torture and “cruel and inhuman” treatment — but does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel.

Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.

Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundamental to American values, such as a person’s ability to go to court to protest his or her detention and the use of coerced testimony as evidence.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is “one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history”.

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