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President Barack Obama said Friday he would reform and restart the military tribunals he once reviled for Guantanamo Bay detainees, jeopardising his timetable for closing the prison by January and dismaying many supporters who suggested he was going back on campaign promises.
Now, after the detainees are given stronger legal protections - a ban on evidence obtained under cruel duress, for example - the trials of 13 defendants in nine cases will be restarted no sooner than September. Five of the 13 are charged with helping orchestrate the September 11, 2001, attacks.
President Obama is on the verge of breaking two key campaign promises in his troubled attempt to shut Guantánamo Bay — with plans to revive the military tribunal system set up by George Bush and to continue the indefinite detention of up to 100 inmates. The moves, which have not yet been signed off by Mr Obama but look increasingly likely, are a result of his promise on his second day in office to shut the Guantánamo Bay prison within a year. Since then, officials charged with working out how to shut down the prison concede that up to 100 of the 241 detainees remaining are either too dangerous to release or cannot be tried in a military or civilian court. The evidence against many of them is tainted because they were tortured, or involves sensitive issues of national security that cannot be revealed.