WASHINGTON (AFP) — A US judge "reluctantly" agreed Monday to a US government request to delay appeals brought by some 250 Guantanamo detainees challenging the legality of their detention.
Judge Thomas Hogan, who is coordinating some 200 to 250 appeals in front of the federal courts, said in an order that he was granting the government's motion.
"The court is satisfied that the government is not dragging its feet in an attempts to delay these matters beyond what is necessary to protect the national security concerns associated with releasing classified information," Hogan said in his order.
"Accordingly, the court further orders that the government shall file factual returns and motions to amend factual returns at a rate of at least 50 per month," he said in the order, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
Documents for the first 50 "habeas corpus" appeals are due by September 30, Hogan added.
In early June the US Supreme Court ruled that prisoners detained in the US "war on terror" and held in Guantanamo Bay had the right to know on what charges they are being held.
More than 250 detainees, some of whom have spent several years at the US military-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have submitted habeas corpus petitions to the court, arguing they are being held illegally without charge or trial.
At the beginning of July, Hogan laid out a timetable with the government for ruling on all cases by the end of August.
But at midnight on the eve of the deadline, the administration of President George W.Bush argued it needed more time to review and declassify key documents, and also to obtain security clearances for the roughly 50 attorneys assigned to the cases.
Critics accuse Bush of trying to delay the whole process, which weighs one of the most fundamental US constitutional rights -- protection against illegal detention -- until he leaves office in January.
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