Suit seeks release of 500 from Guantanamo

/ Source: The Associated Press

A human-rights lawyers’ group has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of more than 500 unnamed terror suspects held by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The suit charging the detainees are being improperly held was filed late Thursday by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. It joins more than 70 cases already pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia filed by family members of other detainees.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina granted lawyers permission to file the suit Thursday. In a one-page order, he allowed the petition to proceed under the fictitious names “John Does,” citing the special circumstances of the case. Urbina did not elaborate.

“The vast majority of the detainees at Guantanamo have not been able to communicate with loved ones who have the ability to contact lawyers in the U.S.,” said Barbara Olshansky, the center’s legal director. “For all of those who remain unrepresented, today’s lawsuit is a giant step forward.”

Urbina’s order does not address attorneys’ access to the unnamed detainees, a question that still must be litigated.

Foreigners from about 40 different countries have been held in Cuba — some for more than three years — without being charged with any crime. They were mainly swept up in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

The government contends the prisoners are dangerous “enemy combatants” who, because they are foreigners, are not entitled to the same constitutional protections as Americans.

Most recently, two district court judges issued conflicting rulings on whether detainees have a legal basis to challenge their detention in federal court. That issue is being appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.