SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A judge Friday reversed his ruling that created new hurdles for some lawyers seeking to visit clients held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.
District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington reinstated 16 lawsuits challenging the indefinite confinement of about 40 men held at the military prison on a U.S. base in Cuba.
Last month, Urbina dismissed the petitions of habeas corpus — a ruling that prompted the Department of Justice to warn attorneys for detainees that they would be barred from any contact with their clients unless they filed new challenges and agreed to tighter restrictions on visits and letters.
Attorneys for detainees asked the judge to reconsider the ruling and he did, while noting the Justice Department's move to limit access to the prisoners.
"This court expresses no small concern over the Department of Justice precipitously disrupting petitioners' access to their counsel," Urbina wrote.
In his original decision, the judge cited an appellate court ruling that the government argued required him to dismiss the cases because Congress and President Bush stripped detainees of the right to file habeas corpus petitions.
Now, the 16 petitions are on hold — along with challenges filed on behalf of dozens of other Guantanamo detainees — until the Supreme Court rules on whether it is constitutional to deny someone held by the U.S. the file a habeas challenge.
The U.S. holds about 330 men on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban at the prison on a Navy base in southeast Cuba.
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