Spain may decide Guantanamo probe this week

Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:02pm IST
 
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* Some Guantanamo detainees were Spanish

* Case could proceed even if prosecutors say no

* President Barack Obama has ordered prison to close

By Tracy Rucinski

MADRID, March 29 (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors may decide this week whether to press ahead with a probe into six former Bush administration officials in connection with the torture of detainees at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison, court sources said.

The criminal investigation into the officials, who include ex-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, would likely focus on whether they violated international law by providing a legal justification for the torture.

Spanish prosecutors were asked to review the case by Baltasar Garzon, a High Court judge who came to world prominence when he issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

Garzon asked for the review following a complaint filed by Spanish lawyers, who could pursue the case in court even if prosecutors decide not to take it further, as occurred in the Pinochet case.

Spain's law allows it to claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there.

The U.S. detention camp in Cuba was set up to hold foreigners captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 against the United States.

In one of his first acts in office, U.S. President Barack Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison where about 245 people are still detained and which has been widely viewed by the international community as a stain on the U.S. human rights record.

According to Spanish law prosecutors recommend whether to proceed with cases and determine whether any trial would come under the jurisdiction of the High Court.

While there is no set deadline for a decision, a recommendation could come before Friday, a court official said.

One of the lawyers who filed the complaint which triggered the review told Reuters:

"It's not that we think the High Court might accept the complaint, they must accept it," Gonzalo Boye said.

The complaint filed by the Association for the Dignity of Inmates also names John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying President George W. Bush had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy.

The other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Boye said the six Americans had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention. (Editing by Matthew Jones)

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