Monday, July 07, 2003

I'm sure that this will go over real well.

The two British terrorist suspects facing a secret US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay will be given a choice: plead guilty and accept a 20-year prison sentence, or be executed if found guilty.

American legal sources close to the process said that the prisoners' dilemma was intended to encourage maximum 'co-operation'.

The news comes as Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, prepares to urge US Secretary of State Colin Powell to repatriate the two Britons. He will say that they should face a fair trial here under English law. Backed by Home Secretary David Blunkett, Straw will make it clear that the Government opposes the death penalty and wants to see both men tried 'under normal judicial process'...

...Stephen Jakobi of Fair Trials Abroad, which is leading the campaign for the two men, said: 'Our concern is that there will be no meaningful way of testing the evidence against these people. The US Defence Department has set itself up as prosecution, judge and defence counsel and has created the rules of trial. This is patently a kangaroo court.'

Begg's family believe he was kidnapped in Pakistan by US authorities. He was taken to Bagram on suspicion of passing funds to al-Qaeda and later transferred to Camp Delta. He has not seen a lawyer since he was seized.

In a clear signal of the high levels of concern within the Government, the acting British ambassador in Washington, Tony Brenton, will raise 'official concern' with the White House.

According to US legal and constitutional experts, the Final Rule, the regulations that will govern the military commissions, has rendered a fair trial almost impossible.
This is not just a travesty,b ut politically insane: These two accused terrorists (well, one appears to be accused of simply having ties to terrorism) are citizens of another democratic country; said country is also pretty much the United States' only ally at the moment. If these two men are convicted, then that status will disappear overnight- either Tony Blair will have to break ties, or he'll be thrown out and replaced by someone that will.

(It's not like an election is required for this, either- Blair could be thrown out on his ear by caucus just as quickly as Thatcher was.)

Then again, this could be a setup. These brits may be treated scrupulously fairly, and satisfy the critics... right before the hammer drops on everybody else. If not, though, this will only further hurt the United States' international standing.

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