| GEO World|
| Obama backs Bush: No rights for Bagram prisoners|
| Updated at: 1257 PST, Saturday, February 21, 2009|
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama's Justice Department sided with the former Bush administration on Friday, saying detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.
In a two-sentence court filing, department lawyers said the Obama administration agreed that detainees at Bagram Air Base could not use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.
``The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we'd hoped,'' said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Air Base. ``We all expected better.''
In midyear last year, the Supreme Court gave al-Qaida and Taliban suspects held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention. With about 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and thousands more held in Iraq courts are grappling with whether they, too, can sue to be released. Three months after the Supreme Court's ruling on Guantanamo Bay, four Afghan citizens being detained at Bagram tried to challenge their detentions in U.S. District Court in Washington.
After Obama took office, a federal judge in Washington gave the new administration a month to decide whether it wanted to stand by Bush's legal argument. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the filing speaks for itself. ``They've now embraced the Bush policy that you can create prisons outside the law,'' said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented several detainees. The Justice Department argues that Bagram is different from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a continuing military action. The government argues that releasing enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.