WASHINGTON – Human rights lawyers filed court challenges on behalf of nine Guantanamo Bay detainees Friday, citing this week’s Supreme Court ruling and pressing the government to justify its detention of the terror suspects or let them go.
A federal court was urged to rule that the nine detainees were being unlawfully held at the military prison in Cuba. They were the first cases filed since the Supreme Court’s ruling this week that the prisoners may use U.S. courts to contest their detentions.
“This is the beginning of trying to enforce precisely what the Supreme Court mandated as a way to obtain justice,” said Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the New York Center for Constitutional Rights. “The first step is that the government has to respond.”
Challenges were filed on behalf of two British citizens, three French citizens, a German Turk, a Jordanian Palestinian refugee, an Iraqi refugee and a Canadian.
They question whether some of the men are in poor mental health after long stretches of being held in isolation.
More lawsuits are expected on behalf of other prisoners. About 600 men from more than 40 countries are being held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Some of the detainees have been at the prison for more than 21/2 years, with little or no contact with the outside world. Just four have had access to lawyers.
Attorneys for the nine detainees said in court filings Friday that the government has exceeded its constitutional authority and asked the court to “declare that the prolonged, indefinite and restrictive detention of (the detainees) is arbitrary and unlawful.”
The Bush administration contends the men are enemy combatants who pose a threat to America and can be held without legal rights.