ACLU attorney to discuss Gitmo issues at WSU event

By Rick Haglund

Legal News

One of the nation's most prominent defense lawyers in the controversy over whether suspected terrorists can be held indefinitely without trial will address the topic in a Tuesday, March 9, presentation at Wayne State University Law School.

Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, will give a speech titled, "Guantanamo: Learning from the Past to Confront the Future" at 12:15 p.m. in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

His talk is sponsored by the Wayne State University Law School Program for International Legal Studies and the International Law Students Association.

The event is free and open to the public. A box lunch, also free, will be served.

Hafetz will discuss the announced closure of the United States detention center at Guantanamo Bay and key components of the Bush administration's war on terror, many of which have been continued by President Barack Obama.

Among those components is the indefinite detention of enemy combatants without charges being brought against them and the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists.

Hafetz will address what he believes are lessons learned from Guantanamo after nearly eight years of battles in the courts and in Congress, and what those lessons say about the future of U.S. detention policy.

The issue heated up again last week when a conservative group released a YouTube video criticizing the Department of Justice for hiring political appointees who previously represented detainees in their private law practices to work on detainee issues.

Keep America Safe, a group affiliated with Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, produced the video. It contains a headline that asks: "DOJ: Department of Jihad?"

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, also have criticized the Justice Department for not turning over to military officials Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.

Hafetz has litigated numerous detention cases following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including Al-Marri v. Spagone, a landmark case that challenged the authority of the military to indefinitely detain a legal U.S. resident suspected of war crimes.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri must be transferred from military custody to civilian custody and a tried in a federal court.

Hafetz also is co-editor of "The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law," a collection of narratives by some 100 lawyers who worked pro bono in Guantanamo detainee cases.

"Jon Hafetz is a recognized leader of the 'Guantanamo bar,' a group of courageous lawyers who have litigated every aspect of U.S. detention policy," said Gregory Fox, a Wayne State law professor and director of the Program for International Legal Studies. "There is no one more qualified to assess the current state of the law and to explore how the Obama administration has addressed this still highly controversial set of issues."

In a recent radio interview with WAMC, a public radio station in Albany, N.Y., Hafetz said holding suspected terrorists indefinitely without trial will be remembered as a shameful practice by the federal government.

"It's something we've never done in our history," Hafetz said. "It's a black mark on our Constitution and our values."

The Obama administration has announced plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and transfer detainees to a prison in Illinois.

There are more than 200 detainees at Guantanamo. The administration has said it plans to keep holding about 50 of them indefinitely without trial.

Published: Tue, Mar 9, 2010

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