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Pentagon official resigns over detainee remark
February 2, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon official who criticized law firms for defending detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has resigned due to the backlash over his remarks, a Defense Department spokesman said on Friday.

Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, last month called it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms represented Guantanamo detainees for free and said they would likely suffer financially after their corporate clients learned of the work.

"He made the decision based on the current controversy," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. "He believed it hampered his ability to be effective in this position."

Stimson, himself a lawyer, submitted his resignation on Thursday and his last day in the position would be Friday, Whitman said, stressing Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not ask him to resign.

The Pentagon disavowed his remarks and Stimson apologized, saying he supported pro bono work and that the legal system worked best when both sides had competent representation.

He had been in his post since January 2006 and Whitman defended Stimson's work, saying he had strengthened the department's relations with nongovernmental organizations, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross.

About 395 prisoners suspected of having al Qaeda or Taliban links remain at the Guantanamo prison camp. Human rights groups have called on the Bush administration to close the facility.

More than 770 captives have been held at Guantanamo, which opened about five years ago, soon after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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