Alleged Taliban fighter goes before tribunal

/ Source: The Associated Press

A high-ranking Taliban fighter accused of planning attacks on U.S. coalition forces went before a military review tribunal Saturday in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The prisoner, 58, was accused of leading a group of 12 members of the al-Qaida terrorist network and the ousted Taliban regime in planning attacks on U.S. coalition forces, said Lt. Gary Ross, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.

It was not clear what the detainee said at his hearing. The military has not released transcripts of statements made at the review tribunals, which are meant to determine whether some 550 prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo are correctly held as “enemy combatants” or should be freed.

The government says prisoners classified as “enemy combatants” — a category that includes anyone who supported the Taliban or al-Qaida — are not entitled to the same legal protections as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

Human rights groups, however, have criticized the review tribunals, in part because prisoners are not allowed attorneys present. The government says the proceedings are administrative.

The tribunals have heard 459 cases so far. One Pakistani man has been freed, while 160 prisoners have been ordered to remain held. Rulings on the rest are pending.