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Calls for closure of Guantanamo prison

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he favors immediately closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison and moving its detainees to US facilities.

The prison, which now holds about 380 suspected terrorists, has tarnished the world’s perception of the United States, Powell said yesterday. „If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I’d close it,” he said. „And I would not let any of those people go,” he said. „I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system.

The concern was, well then they’ll have access to lawyers... So what? Let them. Isn’t that what our system is all about?” Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Congress and the Bush administration should work together to allow imprisonment of some of the more dangerous detainees elsewhere so the military camp at the US Navy base in Cuba can be closed. The Defense Department estimates it would take about three years to conduct 60 to 80 military commission trials, if the administration decides to hold that many.

Some Democrats in Congress have sought to close the camp, which occupies part f the Navy’s base in Guantanamo Bay. Democratic Sen Dianne Feinstein and other politicians have proposed shuttering the camp and shifting the commission trials to the US. Powell said the US should do away with the military commission system in favor of procedures already established in federal law or the manual for courts-martial. „I would also do it because every morning, I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds,” Powell said.

„And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. „We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far more damage than any good we get for it.” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he believes the prison should remain open. „It’s more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration,” said Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor.

„But I’ll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we’re going to be asking, how come we didn’t stop them? We had them detained,” Huckabee said. „I can tell you, most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States,” he said. (icwales.icnetwork.co.uk)