Death Penalty Ruled Out for Two British Guantanamo Detainees

The United States had ruled out the death penalty for two British terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay (search), Cuba, Britain's attorney general said Tuesday.

Lord Goldsmith (search) said he received the assurances during two days of talks with U.S. officials in Washington. He said he had also made significant progress on improving the rules by which British nationals Feroz Abbasi or Moazzam Begg would be tried by a military tribunal.

The men will be able to choose a U.S. civilian lawyer instead of being assigned a military lawyer, he said, and their trials, "subject to any necessary security restrictions," would be open, with news media present.

In a statement in Washington, obtained by the British news agency Press Association, Goldsmith said his objective had been "to ensure that the British detainees in Guantanamo Bay, if prosecuted, are assured of fair trials that meet generally recognized principles, wherever those trials take place, and to make clear our opposition to the death penalty."

Goldsmith met with U.S. Defense Department officials on the future of nine British suspects held at Guantanamo.

Abbasi, 23, and Begg, 35, were on President Bush's initial list of six detainees who could face military tribunals at the American base.

"The U.S. has assured us that the prosecution will not seek the death penalty in the cases of Feroz Abbasi and Moazzem Begg," Goldsmith said.

Guantanamo detainees are accused of links to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban (search) regime or the Al Qaeda terror network.

Begg has been there for nearly five months and was previously detained in Afghanistan for a year, according to the London-based group Fair Trials Abroad. It said he was seized in Pakistan and may be a victim of mistaken identity.

Abbasi, in U.S. custody since January 2002, has been described as a computer student.