GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) – A detainee at Guantanamo Bay whose case has been heard by a U.S. military review tribunal has threatened to kill Americans if released, and another is accused of signing an oath to Osama bin Laden, military officials said Wednesday.

The military also said five detainees have refused to appear before the panels, known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which determine whether a detainee is properly held as an “enemy combatant” or should be released.

U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England visited the American military prison Wednesday to observe the hearings aimed at reviewing the cases of hundreds of prisoners accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban rulers or al-Qaida terror network.

“It is very professional. It is very rigorous. I believe it is very fair,” England said after attending a hearing where a detainee was present.

Human rights groups criticize the process as a sham, saying the three officers assigned to hear cases can’t be considered impartial and that each detainee should be allowed a lawyer.

Three Yemenis, one Saudi and one Moroccan have refused to participate in the review tribunals since Monday, said Lt. Chris Servello, a spokesman. He said a 29-year-old Yemeni – allegedly a Taliban fighter – was the latest to refuse on Wednesday, but the hearing went on without him.

Two others – a 24-year-old Algerian and 24-year-old Yemeni – appeared before tribunals Friday and Saturday. The Yemeni summoned a detainee to testify that he was forced into being a fighter, officials said. The military contends the Yemeni went to Afghanistan to fight, trained at a camp and signed an oath to Osama bin Laden.

The Algerian has said he would kill Americans if released, said Navy Cmdr. Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman. He allegedly traveled from France to Afghanistan with the help of al-Qaida and trained at a camp.

Journalists have been barred from attending the panels since they began Friday and have not been able to independently verify information. Reporters will be allowed inside starting Thursday, but the military is reserving the right to bar classified portions and is prohibiting the release of prisoners’ names.

The first detainees who faced review hearings have not been charged and have been at Guantanamo for more than two years, officials said.

Those who skipped hearings also included a Saudi who allegedly fought in Afghanistan; a Moroccan accused of being a Taliban fighter; a 49-year-old Yemeni alleged to have al-Qaida ties; and a 24-year-old Yemeni accused of being a Taliban member associated with al-Qaida.

Recommendations by the three-member review tribunals have yet to be announced.

All the approximately 585 detainees at Guantanamo have been deemed “enemy combatants” and not prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, which would grant them additional legal rights.

As the military held the review tribunals, three freed British detainees claimed in a report released Wednesday that they suffered systematic brutality at Guantanamo. The report released by lawyers in New York said the men were forced through brutal treatment to make false confessions.

The men claim guards stripped them, threw their copies of the Quran – the Muslim holy book – into the toilet and forcibly shaved them to try to get them to abandon Islam.

The military says it condemns abuse and has gone to great lengths to respect detainees’ religious beliefs. It denies any major incidents at Guantanamo, though it has confirmed that two guards were disciplined – one for hitting a detainee with a radio, the other for spraying a detainee with a hose. A third guard was acquitted in a court martial.

The military announced review tribunals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that prisoners have a right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

They are separate from military commissions that are being set up to try at least four detainees, starting with pretrial hearings planned in late August.

Defense lawyers and human rights groups say they fear the review hearings could allow the government to argue in court that cases require no additional outside review.

“What you have is a process that would be suitable for resolving a dispute over a parking ticket,” said Alistair Hodgett of the London-based rights group Amnesty International.

Each detainee is being assigned a military officer as a “personal representative” at his review. Defense lawyers say that officer is functionally acting as a “government agent.” The U.S. military says the tribunals are set up to be impartial.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.