SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Military tribunals could resume at Guantanamo Bay as soon as early 2007 if the U.S. Congress approves new legislation to try the detainees, the military's chief prosecutor for detainees at the base said Wednesday.
The Department of Defense would have three months after passage of the legislation to come up with new rules for the tribunals, which were struck down by the Supreme Court in June, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, told The Associated Press.
"I'm expecting we will be back in court around the first of the year," the chief prosecutor said in an interview from his office in Arlington, Virginia.
The U.S. had charged 10 detainees with crimes and had begun pretrial hearings at the base before the Supreme Court's ruling that the tribunals violated U.S. and international law — and needed Congressional approval to resume. On Wednesday President Bush laid out his proposal for trying detainees and said the U.S. had moved 14 "key terrorist leaders" to the detention center in eastern Cuba.
Those alleged leaders include Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 Al Qaeda leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003.
Davis said that the military would probably prosecute about 75 detainees and would seek the death penalty in some cases, though he declined to give specifics.
"Obviously, someone of (Khalid Sheik Mohammed's) magnitude it would be reasonable to expected would be subject to the death penalty," he said.
At Guantanamo, officials declined to provide any details about the new detainees, who bring the prisoner population to about 460.
"It is our policy that every detainee ... be treated humanely," Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand said in a statement issued from the base.