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Fighting terror

Lawyer: Tribunals should be public

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 23, 2003

WASHINGTON - Military trials of terrorism suspects should be public to ensure that the world sees the proceedings as fair, said the Air Force officer appointed as chief defense lawyer for the tribunals.

Col. Will Gunn said Thursday that he would push for any such trials to be as open as possible.

The military is preparing for possible trials of some of the suspected al-Qaida and Taliban members being held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Pentagon on Thursday announced Gunn's appointment and said Army Col. Fred Borch would be the chief prosecutor.

President Bush would have to order military trials for any of the 680 or so prisoners at Guantanamo - something he has not done. The Pentagon has listed 18 war crimes and eight other offenses, including terrorism and the deliberate killing of civilians, that could be handled by military tribunals.

Borch said he is looking at at least 10 possible cases for prosecution before a tribunal.

Prove it, Iran tells U.S.

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran demanded on Thursday that Washington prove its claims that Tehran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and accused Osama bin Laden's network of "threatening" Iranian national interests.

Saeed Pourazizi, a close aide to President Mohammad Khatami, said it was Tehran's policy to crack down on al-Qaida - not support it, as senior Bush administration officials suggested a day earlier.

Al-Qaida "is a terrorist group threatening Iran's interests," Pourazizi told the Associated Press. "Its extremist interpretation of Islam contradicts the Islamic democracy Iran is trying to promote. There is no commonality of anything between us."

Iran is a Shiite Muslim-dominated state, while bin Laden's al-Qaida group preaches a hard-line interpretation of the Sunni sect of the Islamic faith.

4 al-Qaida suspects jailed

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Four more men allegedly linked to al-Qaida were arrested as part of a crackdown that Saudi officials launched after deadly bombings in Riyadh last week, a Western diplomat said Thursday.

The four were arrested Tuesday for their alleged ties to 19 men wanted over a weapons cache found May 6 near the site of the deadly Riyadh bombings, which occurred six days later, the diplomat told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia launched a sweeping crackdown on extremists after the suicide attacks May 12 on the three compounds in Riyadh that killed 34 people, including eight Americans and the nine attackers. Saudi officials said Thursday that about 100 people have been detained so far.

The government has said the 19 people wanted for questioning about the cache were believed to be receiving orders directly from Osama bin Laden. They may have been planning to use the seized weapons to attack the Saudi royal family and American and British interests.

Also . . .

TROOPS KILL 3 REBELS: U.S. forces exchanged fire with suspected rebels in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least three, the U.S. military said Thursday. There were no reports of U.S. casualties. Two A-10 "tank-killer" jets were called in with one AC-130 gunship to fight about 30 attackers, but none of the aircraft fired, the military said.

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