updated 12/18/2003 2:44:10 PM ET 2003-12-18T19:44:10

The Pentagon has appointed a military defense lawyer for another terrorism suspect held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, the Defense Department announced Thursday.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen becomes the second Guantanamo prisoner to be given a lawyer. Australian David Hicks got a lawyer earlier this month and recently met with an Australian legal adviser.

Both Hamdan and Hicks are among six Guantanamo Bay prisoners designated by President Bush as candidates for trials by special military tribunals. Thursday’s announcement was the first public acknowledgment by the United States that it was holding Hamdan.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift will be Hamdan’s military lawyer. Prisoners brought before military tribunals also will be able to hire a U.S. civilian lawyer. Two lawyers have been approved for that role so far out of 20 who applied.

Swift plans to meet with Hamdan soon, the Pentagon said in a statement.

About 660 suspected members of al-Qaida or the Taliban are being held at the high-security prison at Guantanamo Bay. Human rights groups and some foreign governments have criticized their treatment and the lack of trials or access to lawyers.

The United States says the prisoners are “enemy combatants,” not prisoners of war, and says military tribunals are allowed under international law.

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