WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush has designated six prisoners linked to terrorism as eligible for trial before military tribunals, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Officials refused to name the six or offer many details about them. All are believed to be either members of the al-Qaida terrorist network or otherwise involved in terrorism, said two Pentagon officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity late Thursday.

Some of the six may have attended terrorist training camps and some were involved in raising money and recruiting for terrorist groups, the officials said. Under Bush’s order creating the military tribunals, only people who are not U.S. citizens are eligible for such trials.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will make a separate decision on whether the suspects will actually face trials by what the Pentagon calls military commissions. That decision will depend in part on the next moves by the captives and their lawyers, an administration official said.

The United States may not publicly name the suspects even if they go to trial, a senior Defense Department official told reporters. None of the officials who discussed the matter Thursday would say where the suspects are being held, though all are in U.S. custody.

Candidates for the tribunals include the 680 or so terrorism suspects being held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Officials there have begun planning for construction of trial facilities and even an execution chamber, since the tribunals would be able to consider imposing the death penalty.

Pentagon rules for the tribunals list 18 war crimes and eight other offenses, including terrorism and the deliberate killing of civilians, that could be handled by the military commissions. The cases would be decided by a panel of three to seven military officers who would act as both judge and jury. Convictions could be handed down by a two-thirds vote; a decision to sentence a defendant to death would have to be unanimous.

All defendants would be given military defense lawyers who would be able to be present in any closed hearings discussing classified information. The defendants and their private, civilian lawyers could be excluded from secret hearings. As in regular U.S. military court, the government would not pay for a defendant’s civilian lawyers.

AP-ES-07-03-03 1751EDT

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