Obama seeks to suspend Gitmo trials

President ordered military prosecutors to seek 120-day suspension of the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals

By Vincent Rossmeier

Published January 21, 2009 4:50PM (EST)

Late Tuesday, just hours into his presidency, President Barack Obama instructed military prosecutors to seek a 120-day suspension of the military tribunals being conducted at Guantánamo Bay.

Tuesday's order indicates a strong break with the approach former President Bush took toward handling the prosecution of suspected terrorists. Obama has said that he intends to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

While the military judges involved in the cases do not necessarily have to agree to Obama's request, if followed, the instruction would halt 21 pending cases.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, who is the defense lawyer for Omar Khadr, a detainee held at Guantánamo Bay, told the AP that Obama's order "has the practical effect of stopping the process, probably forever."

On Tuesday, Obama also ordered that federal agencies put an immediate halt to all pending regulations from the Bush administration until Obama's administration has time to review them.

Update: Responding to President Obama's instruction, Defense Secretary Robert Gates filed an order to have the trials cease at least temporarily. The military judges at Guantánamo agreed to the suspension today.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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